Category Archives: Wage

Chicago: Mass Charter School Teacher Strike

Angering Wall Street and other millionaires and billionaires who promote charter schools, in early December 2018 hundreds of teachers at a corporate charter school chain in Chicago called Acero set a historic record and held the nation’s first mass charter school teachers’ strike.

The strike at Acero’s 15 charter schools, attended by mostly poor and low-income Latino students, was something wealthy private interests urgently wanted to avoid because it would bring too much attention to many problems that have been plaguing charter schools for years.

Smaller classes, more school personnel, better pay, and greater teacher voice were some of the many demands that 500 Acero teachers made. Out-of-touch Acero CEO, Richard Rodriguez, made many misleading statements about the striking teachers in order to discredit their struggle and rights. Like other charter school supporters, Rodriguez is eager to deprive people of their perception and consciousness, and desperately wants people to believe the opposite of what is happening and what is needed. He wants to operate with impunity while casting teachers as irresponsible for defending their rights and the rights of their students.

Extensive research easily obtained online shows that the charter school sector has been rife with fraud, corruption, racketeering, investigations, and arrests, as well as a lack of regulations, unions, teacher stability, accountability, or transparency for decades. These and other conditions common to charter schools nationwide have long produced a low level of teaching and learning, and a high level of stress, dissatisfaction, and frustration for everyone. It was only a matter of time before a large number of teachers at a corporate charter school chain joined together to defend their rights and protest long-standing horrible working conditions. Teachers’ working conditions, and therefore students’ learning conditions, in charter schools have been subpar for decades.

About three million youth are currently enrolled in approximately 7,000 charter schools across the country. These privately operated, publicly funded schools are legal in 44 states, Washington, DC, Guam, and Puerto Rico. They are governed by individuals who are not publicly elected and who eagerly embrace the notion of education as a commodity subject to the chaos, anarchy, and violence of the so-called “free market.” Charter school supporters see the chaos, anarchy, and violence of the “free market” as a virtue. They are unable to see that such an arrangement is barbaric and outdated.

Roughly 92% of charter schools are not unionized. Charter school owners-operators are notorious for vicious union-suppression tactics. Ask any teacher at a charter school that has even thought about unionizing what usually happens to them. It’s ugly and desperate. Unions are to charter schools what the crucifix is to Dracula. But even when unions exist in charter schools, they are usually not as strong and powerful as unions in public schools. This is the same reason why more than 95% of charter schools are not started, controlled, or operated by teachers—not 30 years ago and not today.

It is no secret that teacher turnover in charter schools has always been very high across the board because working conditions are generally poor, especially compared to working conditions in public schools, which are constantly being defunded by charter schools. Teachers don’t leave charter schools because charter school operators are just so good at selecting and keeping amazing teachers while “weeding out” rotten teachers; they leave because they want to work somewhere else with better working conditions for teachers and learning conditions for students.

Charter school teachers, on average, have fewer college credentials than their public school counterparts, fewer years of teaching experience, work longer school days and years, make less money, and have fewer, if any, pension or retirement benefits. Over the years, numerous sources have documented these and many other destructive trends endemic to the entire charter school sector.

Both charter school teachers and public school teachers are fed up with backwards working conditions and realize that no one is going to defend their rights except themselves. Relying on politicians, “experts,” charter school operators, major owners of capital, or the media does not work. Status quo forces have no interest in opening the path of progress to society. On the contrary, such forces are working overtime to suppress the rights of teachers and other workers under the veneer of high ideals. Teachers must rely on themselves, on their own numbers, power, and organization to forge ahead and bring about changes consistent with modern demands and requirements. They and other workers should reject a capital-centered outlook and fight for arrangements, views, and definitions that favor the working class and the people.

Striking charter school teachers in Chicago may have broken a certain threshold, sending an empowering message to other teachers, especially charter school teachers, that they do not have to be passive in the face of attacks on their rights and the rights of students. Charter school owners-operators must be held accountable for the havoc they are wreaking in the sphere of education.

Millionaires and billionaires behind charter schools are hell-bent on trampling on public right and imposing on the public a most self-serving narrative about charter schools. This is why they are also upset and demoralized about 30,000 members of United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) flooding the streets of Los Angeles on January 14, 2019 to affirm their rights, especially by opposing charter schools. Thousands of parents, students, workers, and residents have turned out to support the teachers. The last such major walkout by LA teachers was in 1989. California authorized the first charter schools in 1992 and is now home to more than 1,100 charter schools, which is more than any other state.

LA teachers have specifically targeted charter schools as a major problem because these schools are directly harming every aspect of LA’s public school system.

Charter school disinformation is slowly losing its grip on social consciousness. More people are steadily coming to see the fraud that charter schools represent and that these schools cannot be prettified. Charter schools are a form of financial parasitism.

In the context of this intensifying fight, people should not be diverted by false dichotomies like “good” charter schools versus “bad” charter schools, nonprofit charter schools versus for-profit charter schools, regulated charter schools versus unregulated charter schools, mom-and-pop charter schools versus corporate charter schools, or high-performing charter schools versus low-performing charter schools. These categories are meaningless when considering that all charter schools, regardless of this or that consideration, are privatized, marketized, corporatized arrangements that have a net negative effect on the sphere of education, society, and the economy. Nor should anyone swallow hook, line, and sinker the nonsense about charter schools being about “choice” and “empowering parents.” Hundreds of charter schools close each year, often suddenly, leaving thousands of families abandoned, stressed, angry, and disillusioned. Charter schools violate and disempower parents, teachers, students, and principals all the time.

A Shameful Legacy: “Race” and the Railroad Industry in the United States

“Race” has always, historically speaking, been the Achilles Heel of the labor movement in the United States, the number one tool of the bosses and big capital to divide, contain, and crush working-class struggles.

In the history of the worker’s movement in the US there are few things as shameful as the legacy – decade-after-decade – of blatant in-your-face segregationist practices, codified discrimination, and race-hatred against African-American  railroaders. The latter story— the oppression and the resistance —is told in Eric Arnesen’s Brotherhoods of Color: Black Railroad Workers and the Struggle for Equality. Among African American rail workers who have experienced and studied this rich history, Arnesen’s book is considered the authoritative reference, the Bible really, of an important, if often overlooked, history in the overall struggle for Black and worker’s rights in the US. (In addition to Brotherhoods of Color, I would recommend Philip Foner’s classic history Organized Labor and the Black Worker 1619-1973 an extraordinarily rich and comprehensive general history that takes up these issues and much more.)

The Railway Labor Act

The passage of the Federal Railway Labor Act of 1924 (RLA) registered important advances for railroad workers in that it was the first federal legal recognition of trade unions by craft. The RLA set up collective bargaining mechanisms that facilitated legally binding contract settlements and the adjudication of grievances, in exchange for rail labor organizations submitting to drawn-out federally “supervised” procedures that in practice gave up the right to strike.

Nevertheless, these concessions to rail labor reined in somewhat the unbridled prerogatives of the rail bosses over decades of on-again, off-again class war on the US rails from the great labor uprisings of 1877 through the struggles of the American Railway Union under the leadership of the legendary Eugene V. Debs.

The American Railway Union fought for the unification of all railroad workers – regardless of craft, race or ethnicity – into one big union. It won a big victory in the 1894 Great Northern strike but fell apart after the massive defeat in the Pullman strike later that year.

Those decades saw regular combat been rail capital and rail labor over worker’s rights, decent wages and living standards, working conditions and safety, the length of the working day, health and vacation benefits, and so on. The RLA, as it became institutionalized, also reined in the violence the rail bosses and their thugs and goons, backed by state and federal cops, National Guard, and armed forces, that was periodically unleashed against rail labor.

By setting up a significant government bureaucracy to oversee the adjudication of contract settlements and grievances, Washington and the rail carriers accomplished a major political goal of buying “labor peace” in the vast national rail industry at a time the United States was rising as a world power following World War I.

Another concession in the interests of rail labor was that the RLA also established the first federally protected pension system for any category of US workers, eleven years before the passage of the Social Security Act. The Railroad Retirement Board still exists to this day parallel to the Social Security Administration (and from which I personally draw my pension as a retired locomotive engineer).

The Institutionalization of Segregation

Perhaps the most pernicious consequences of the RLA was that it froze into place existing, narrow craft categories of workers, and, within that, a system of racist discrimination and the exclusion of non-“white” workers from the legally recognized craft unions, the so-called “Brotherhoods.”

It took decades of struggle in the yards, in the streets, in state and Federal legislatures, and continually in the courts, before the system began to weaken in the 1940s, under the impact of World War II labor shortages and the entry of masses of African American workers into the labor force and the massively expanding war industries. Further pressure mounted in the 1950s, as the Civil Rights Movement began to mobilize and fight, until the whole rotten structure collapsed in ignominy after the passage of the 1964 Federal Civil Rights Act. Over the next few years, Blacks finally began to get jobs, and union membership, as locomotive engineers, firemen, conductors, brakemen and switchmen, electricians and machinists, office personnel, and other crafts beyond “their” craft as sleeping car porters, cooks, and dining car attendants. Women began to enter the operating crafts and other skilled rail jobs in relatively larger numbers in the 1980s and 1990s.

Massive Union Growth in the US

The great labor battles of the 1930s in the United States are downplayed in history textbooks and public education. In fact, this period was marked by a huge working-class and trade union upsurge across the US. The nadir of US labor organization was in the depths of the 1931-32 Great Depression. Union membership had been reduced to 1-2% of the employed workforce. Most of that pitiful number was within the semi-moribund, very conservative AFL craft unions. By 1937-38 the number of organized workers has risen to a full 35% of the US workforce, following a few years of explosive strikes and organizing campaigns under the banner of the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations) movement with successful drives to organize the steel, auto, trucking, and countless other industries. Nowhere has there been recorded such a massive growth in trade-union membership in such a short period as in the United States at that time.

Unfortunately, this mass organization of the US working class in the 1930s bypassed almost completely the railroad industry and the “whites only” craft-union structure of the “Brotherhoods” that had been codified under the RLA a decade earlier. The craft structure was reinforced, with its segregationist core intact.


The CIO did not exclude African-American workers and actively recruited them. In the course of the decade’s great labor battles, such as the Flint Sit-Down strikes of 1936-1937, the battle to organize US Steel and the entire steel industry, and much more, Black and Caucasian workers often organized, mobilized, and fought together and even politically radicalized, to an extent, together. Caucasian workers had to adjust their perspectives and outlooks and confront their prejudices to a degree as they faced the reality that African-American workers had already become a mass presence in US industry. Their numbers and concentration, as well as their evident and obvious capacity for industrial work and a fierce determination to struggle for decent-paying union jobs in the face of race prejudice and segregationist practice was becoming politically unstoppable. Race-baiting was an ever-present political tool of the bosses who fought tooth and nail against trade union advances. Many workers became conscious of these divide-and-conquer tactics and began to rethink their world outlooks.

The Women’s Emergency Brigade organized during the Flint Sit Down Strike of 1937.

Roots of the Civil Rights Movement

Brotherhoods of Color shows that the source and ultimate responsibility for the racist practices and policies that confronted Black workers throughout the 20th Century lay with the private rail carriers and the federal and state governments that catered to their needs and profits. Nevertheless, it must also be said that often these industry and state authorities used the racist and mean-spirited attitudes of the rail unions, the so-called “Brotherhoods” as a cover for inaction or hostile action against Black workers, who were fighting a permanent defensive war to preserve the relatively skilled jobs they had managed to secure.

These AFL-affiliated craft unions, legally recognized under the RLA, contained bylaws and “covenants” that openly excluded Black workers, making them essentially “white job trusts.” The “Brotherhoods” were, at times, even more racist and reactionary than the formal policies of the carriers and government bodies and agencies who regularly came under enough political and legal pressure from Black workers and their allies among labor radicals and civil rights and worker’s rights lawyers, to occasionally give lip service (and usually little else) to fair labor practices.

Brotherhoods of Color meticulously documents the legal battles doggedly fought by civil rights and worker’s rights attorneys in the generally hostile territory of the criminal justice system that predominated at that time. That system, as a whole, acted to uphold and defend – decade after decade – the prevailing system of de jure or de facto segregation and keep Black workers and their attorneys in an endless legal labyrinth. Nevertheless, working through the rigged “legal system,” trying to wring any concessions possible was the main approach of the more conservative Black and liberal organizations like the NAACP.

They took advantage of every contradiction between the fine words of US law and its sordid reality and snail’s pace when it came to race and sex discrimination. Even favorable court rulings here and there were rarely, if ever, implemented in practice. Slick government, carrier, or “Brotherhood” lawyers always managed to drag things out.

This legalistic road was nowhere a sufficient basis for change. It was rather more of a marker and registration for the ebb and flow of the grass-roots struggle against job discrimination and segregation which became unstoppable by the 1960s. Arnesen writes:

Just as proponents of educational desegregation learned in the 1950s, court-imposed solutions were costly, time-consuming, and imperfect. Employment discrimination cases slowly wound their way through the judicial system in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, addressing local variations as well as other obstacles that the ‘white’ craft unions threw in the way of African-American railroaders. Without a doubt, these cases established important principles that undermined the legitimacy of racist practices. In effect, though, they eroded only at a glacial pace both existing and new practices designed to thwart the job rights of black fireman and brakemen.

The struggles documented in Brotherhoods of Color became one of the mightiest rivers flowing into the ocean of the mass Civil Rights Movement emerging in the Deep South in the 1950s and 1960s. The political culmination was the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which gave the legal death knell to the segregationist practices that were institutionalized at the time of the Railway Labor Act. After the 1964 legislation the resistance of the craft unions collapsed virtually overnight and a period, sometimes fraught with tension but with steady gains, saw the beginnings of genuine job opportunities, union membership, and advances for African American workers in the freight and passenger rail industry.

Even in the period when Black workers were largely confined to crafts of sleeping car porters, cooks, and dining attendants, Black-led unions representing these workers on the job were organized. The strongest was the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) which became, under the leadership of A. Philip Randolph, a powerful, prestigious organization in Black communities across the United States. The BSCP received a charter from the AFL in 1925 and, for years, unsuccessfully petitioned for the desegregation of the racist “Brotherhoods.” The BSCP was in the forefront of Black rights struggles across the US.

For example, it is not well known that the central organizer of the Montgomery Bus Boycott was E.D. Nixon, President of the Montgomery, Alabama chapter of the BSCP and the NAACP who convinced a courageous 26-year-old Martin Luther King (older prominent local preachers were reluctant to step forward) to take public leadership of what became the turning-point action that became the major spark of the mass movement across the South that soon materialized. The legendary Rosa Parks, whose conscious, well-organized decision to refuse to sit at the back of the bus set off the boycott, was a secretary at the NAACP office employed by BSCP worker and organizer E.D. Nixon.

Randolph had the courage to threaten a mass March on Washington in early 1941 demanding an end to segregation in the armed forces as well as that the massively expanding war industries hire and promote without discrimination Black workers. President Franklin Roosevelt was not happy but issued Executive Order 8802 prohibiting discrimination in war industries under federal contracts. This succeeded in get the March on Washington called off. Randolph later became the honorary chairperson for the famous 1963 March on Washington.

But the real heroes in Brotherhoods of Color are the rank-and-file workers, themselves, fighting to preserve their jobs against the carriers, the state governments, and the racist “Brotherhoods.” Arnesen gives them their voice and records their efforts, their many defeats and some victories which, when all is said and done, contributed mightily to the historic breakthroughs of the 1960s.

The overall history documented comprehensively by Arnesen does reveal clearly that all advances, small and larger, won were a byproduct of independent mass action or the threat of it from below.

Crucially, it should be emphasized that the space to do this was increased materially in the first half of the 20th Century in the World War I era, and, even more in the buildup to US entry into World War II. The centrality of the rail industry, the conversion to massive war production on the eve of World War II translated to a hunger for labor power on the railroads in particular and US industry in general. Black workers, already a massive layer of the working class in the worst, and worst-paying, jobs, and their representatives and advocates, saw the opening to fight for decent jobs, paying union-scale, in the rapidly expanding war industries. For example, during World War I thousands of Blacks were hired as construction and maintenance laborers on northern rail lines. In fact, Black GIs returning from World War II and the Korean War, and the African American nationality as a whole in these post-war periods, were in no mood for settling into the old segregationist and humiliating status quo.

Stop the Whitewashing of Our History

In my 30-year railroad career, working as a brakeman-switchman, hostler, and locomotive engineer in Chicago, Washington, DC, and New York, for first the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad and then for Amtrak, I saw a transformation in the number of African-American and then women in the operating crafts. I remember being in the cab of the locomotive in the middle of some godforsaken stretch of Illinois countryside, or pulling a 150-car coal train from Chicago’s giant Proviso Yard to the gates of a northern Indiana power plant, listening to the stories of some of the first Black engineers that the carriers were forced to hire – and the craft unions gave up trying to exclude. These brothers related to me the bullshit they had to put up with initially, even as things began to get better and prejudices began to break down.

It would be very educational and useful if our unions today would confront this blot on our history and dignity as organizations of labor. This is long overdue. And not only for moral reasons.

I maintain that we need to know the history of our unions if we are going to transform them into instruments of struggle for the coming battles facing the working class in the United States today, in this new gilded age of obscene social inequality and squalid oligarchy in the United States.

This whitewashing of history really slapped me across the face when I received in the mail in 2013 a booklet celebrating the 150th Anniversary of my union, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), which is now a division of the Teamsters Union, and its predecessors the Brotherhood of the Footboard (founded in 1863) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. There was not a single word in that small book about the segregationist, “whites only” bylaws and “covenants” that prevailed for 100 years!

I had once personally confronted BLET President Dennis Pierce about this, in a friendly way, when he attended a retirement party thrown by our Division 11 in New York City. Brother Pierce told me he was “appalled” at what he saw in the archives, including “whites only” covenants, but when I asked him why the history booklet sent to each member, glorifying the history of our union, there was not a single word on the decades-long blatant racism he fell back on the lame and cowardly rationalization that to include it in the 150th anniversary booklet and literature would be “divisive”! As if the real “division” were not the racist practices themselves.

Old Lessons, Current Realities

While the legacy of racist discrimination in the railroad industry – and in US social relations in general – have been dealt heavy blows in the past several decades, race hatred and demagogy remain a reference point for ultra-rightist forces and their allies (who are invariably anti-union) and a cutting-edge component in the current social and political polarization in US politics. These voices are trying to get a hearing for their reactionary viewpoints in the working class and our greatly weakened trade-union movement.

Since the financial crisis and so-called Great Recession of 2007-08 there were subsequent devastating attacks on the value of labor, employment, wages, and living standards under both Democratic and Republican White Houses and Congresses. The relative and slight uptick in GDP numbers today (famously manipulated and manipulatable), the balloon of the stock market, and slight increases in industrial production and manufacturing have been typically hyped by President Donald Trump – “this is the greatest economy in the history of America.” The actual economic figures (which are always “readjusted”) are significant and interesting mainly around the question of their sustainability. One key question: What will be the unintended consequences of the unfolding clashes over trade and tariffs between the United States, China, and the European Union? What will be the spillover effects, economically and politically, in Asia, Canada, Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa?

Another curious fact that stands out for now is that wages for working people continue to stagnate and trend downward, with minor exceptions, despite the official low unemployment figures. Labor shortages in fast-food and other large-scale wholesale and retail operations such as Amazon, Walmart, and so on, along with militant drives by unorganized workers to fight for $15 an hour, have forced these outfits to grant some wage concessions.

Similarly, rank-and-file teachers, almost independent of their weak unions, forced state house to grant some wage relief (that is raises) with no strings attached in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona.

Brotherhoods of Color is well-written and comprehensive. I recommend it not only for its rich evocation of the past but because it contains many lessons for rail and other US workers of whatever “race” or skin tone, for the present and future. Workers, who are being drawn into today’s struggles and will by the millions be drawn into the giant, inevitable class battles that lay ahead in the USA.

“May Day” Militancy Needed To Create The Economy We Need

The Popular Resistance School will begin on May 1 and will be an eight-week course on how movements grow, build power and succeed as well as examine the role you can play in the movement. Sign up to be part of this school so you can participate in small group discussions about how to build a powerful, transformational movement. REGISTRATION CLOSES MIDNIGHT APRIL 30.

Seventy years of attacks on the right to unionize have left the union movement representing only 10 percent of workers. The investor class has concentrated its power and uses its power in an abusive way, not only against unions but also to create economic insecurity for workers.

At the same time, workers, both union and nonunion, are mobilizing more aggressively and protesting a wide range of economic, racial and environmental issues.

On this May Day, we reflect on the history of worker power and present lessons from our past to build power for the future.

May Day Workers of the World Unite, Melbourne, Australia, in 2012. By Johan Fantenberg, Flickr.

In most of the world, May Day is a day for workers to unite, but May Day is not recognized in the United States even though it originated here. On May 1, 1886, more than 300,000 workers in 13,000 businesses across the US walked off their jobs for the first May Day in history. It began in 1884, when the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions proclaimed at their convention that workers themselves would institute the 8-hour day on May 1, 1886. In 1885 they called for protests and strikes to create the 8-hour work day. May Day was part of a revolt against abusive working conditions that caused deaths of workers, poverty wages, poor working conditions and long hours.

May Day gained permanence because of the Haymarket rally which followed. On May 3, Chicago police and workers clashed at the McCormick Reaper Works during a strike where locked-out steelworkers were beaten as they picketed and two unarmed workers were killed. The next day a rally was held at Haymarket Square to protest the killing and wounding of workers by police. The rally was peaceful, attended by families with children and the mayor himself. As the crowd dispersed, police attacked. A bomb was thrown—no one to this day knows who threw it—and police fired indiscriminately into the crowd, killing several civilians and wounding forty. One officer was killed by the bomb and several more died from their own gunfire. A corrupt trial followed in August concluding with a biased jury convicting eight men, though only three of them were present at Haymarket and those three were in full view of all when the bombing occurred. Seven received a death sentence, the eighth was sentenced to 15 years, and in the end, four were hanged, one committed suicide and the remaining three were pardoned six years later. The trial shocked workers of the world and led to annual protests on May Day.

The unity of workers on May Day was feared by big business and government. That unity is shown by one of the founders of May Day, Lucy Parsons, who was of Mexican American, African American, and Native American Descent. Parsons, who was born into slavery, never ceased her work for racial, gender, and labor justice. Her partner was Albert Parsons, one of those convicted for Haymarket and hanged.

Solidarity across races and issues frightens the power structure. In 1894 President Grover Cleveland severed May Day from its roots by establishing Labor Day on the first Monday in September, after pressure to create a holiday for workers following the Pullman strike. Labor Day was recognized by unions before May Day. The US tried to further wipe May Day from the public’s memory by President Dwight Eisenhower proclaiming “Law and Order Day” on May 1, 1958.

Long Shoreman march in San Francisco on May Day 2008 in the first-ever strike action by U.S. workers against U.S. imperialist war. Source: The Internationalist

Escalation of Worker Protests Continues to Grow

Today, workers are in revolt, unions are under attack and the connections between workers’ rights and other issues are evident once again. Nicole Colson reports that activists on a range of issues, including racial and economic justice, immigrant rights, women’s rights, a new economy of worker-owners, transitioning to a clean energy economy with environmental and climate justice, and a world without war, are linking their struggles on May Day.

There has been a rising tide of worker militancy for years. The ongoing Fight for $15 protests helped raise the wages of 20 million workers and promoted their fight for a union. There are 64 million people working for less than $15 an hour. Last year there was also a massive 36-state strike involving 21,000 mobility workers.

Worker strikes continued into 2018 with teacher strikes over salaries, healthcare, pensions and school funding. Teachers rejected a union order to return to work. Even though it included a 5 percent raise, it was not until the cost of healthcare was dealt with that the teachers declared success. Teachers showed they could fight and win and taught others some lessons on striking against a hostile government. The West Virginia strike inspired others, and is followed by strikes in Oklahoma, Kentucky, Colorado, and Arizona. These strikes may expand to other states, evidence of unrest has been seen in states including New Jersey and Pennsylvania as well as Puerto Rico because courage is contagious.

Graduate students have gone on strike, as have transit and UPS workers and low-wage workers. The causes include stagnant wages, spiraling healthcare costs, and inadequate pensions. They are engaged in a fight for basic necessities. In 2016, there wasn’t a single county or state in which someone earning the federal minimum wage could afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment at market rate.

Workers are also highlighting that women’s rights are worker’s rights. Even before the #MeToo movement took off, workers protested sexual harassment in the workplace. Workers in thirty states walked off the job at McDonald’s to protest, holding signs that said “McDonald’s Hands off my Buns” and “Put Some Respect in My Check.”

Last year on May Day, a mass mobilization of more than 100,000 immigrant workers walked off their jobs. This followed a February mobilization, a Day Without Immigrants. The Cosecha Movement has a long-term plan to build toward larger strikes and boycotts. There will be many worker revolts leading up to that day.

The Poor People’s Campaign has taken on the issues of the movement for economic, racial, environmental justice and peace. Among their demands are federal and state living wage laws, a guaranteed annual income for all people, full employment, and the right to unionize. It will launch 40 days of actions beginning on Mother’s Day. Workers announced a massive wave of civil disobedience actions this spring on the 50th anniversary of the sanitation strike in Memphis, at a protest where they teamed up with the Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for Black Lives.  Thousands of workers walked off their jobs in cities across the country.

Unrealized Worker Power Potential Can Be Achieved

The contradictions in the US economy have become severe. The wealth divide is extreme, three people have the wealth of half the population and one in five people have zero wealth or are in debt. The U.S. is ranked 35th out of 37 developed nations in poverty and inequality.  According to a UN report, 19 million people live in deep poverty including one-quarter of all youth. Thirty years of economic growth have been stagnant for most people in the US. A racial prism shows the last 50 years have made racial inequality even wider, with current policies worsening the situation.

May 5 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of economic philosopher, Karl Marx, the failure of US capitalism has become evident.  Over the last fifty years, in order for the few to exploit the many, labor laws have been put in place to weaken workers’ rights and unions.  Andrew Stewart summarizes some of the key points:

First, the National Labor Relations Act, signed by FDR, that legalized unionization. Or more precisely, it domesticated unions. When combined with the Taft-Hartley Act, the Railway Labor Act, and Norris-La Guardia Act, the union movements of America were forced into a set of confines that reduced its arsenal of tactics so significantly that they became a shell of their pre-NLRA days. And this, of course, leaves to the side the impact of the McCarthy witch hunts on the ranks of good organizers.

In addition, 28 states have passed so-called “right to work” laws that undermine the ability of workers to organize. And, the Supreme Court in the Janus case, which is likely to be ruled on this June, is likely to undermine public unions. On top of domestic laws, capitalist globalization led by US transnational corporations has undermined workers, caused de-industrialization and destroyed the environment. Trade must be remade to serve the people and planet, not profits of the few.

While this attack is happening, so is an increase in mobilizations, protests, and strikes. The total number of union members grew by 262,000 in 2017 and three-fourths of those were among workers aged 35 and under and 23% of new jobs for workers under 35 are unionized. With only 10 percent of workers in a union, there is massive room for growth at this time of economic insecurity.

Chris Hedges describes the new gig economy as the new serfdom. Uber drivers make $13.77 an hour, and in Detroit that drops to $8.77. He reports on drivers committing suicide. One man, who drove over 100 hours a week, wrote, “I will not be a slave working for chump change. I would rather be dead.” This while the former CEO of Uber, one of the founders, Travis Kalanick, has a net worth of $4.8 billion. The US has returned to pre-20th Century non-union working conditions. Hedges writes that workers now must “regain the militancy and rebuild the popular organizations that seized power from the capitalists.”

Solidarity across racial and economic divides is growing as all workers suffer from abuses of the all-powerful capitalist class. As those in power abuse their privilege, people are becoming more militant. We are seeing the blueprint for a new worker movement in the teacher strikes and Fight for $15. A movement of movements including labor, environmentalist, anti-corporate advocates, food reformers, healthcare advocates and more stopped the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This shows the potential of unified power.

In recent strikes, workers have rejected proposals urged by their union and have pushed for more. Told to go back to work, they continued to strike. The future is not unions who serve to calm labor disputes, but unions who escalate a conflict.

The future is more than re-legalizing unions and raising wages and benefits, it is building wealth in the population and creating structural changes to the economy. This requires a new economy where workers are owners, in worker cooperatives, so their labor builds power and wealth. Economic justice also requires a rewoven safety net that ensures the essentials of healthcare and housing, as well as non-corporatized public education, free college education, a federal job guarantee and a basic income for all.

The escalation of militancy should not demand the solutions of the past but demand the new economy of the future. By building community wealth through democratized institutions, we will reduce the wealth divide and the influence of economic inequality over our lives.

Ode to America

My own little world
Is what I deserve
‘Cause I am the only child there is.
A king of it all
The belle of the ball
I promise I’ve always been like this.
Forever the first
My bubble can’t burst
It’s almost like only I exist.
Where everything’s mine
If I can keep my mouth shut tight, tight, tight.

— Guster, “Center of Attention”, Lost and Gone Forever Live, 2014

So much for the city on the hill. Narcissism has changed to nihilism and solipsism: “climate change isn’t real”, and the ravages of history continue down the rabbit hole of memory.

Take another look. Genocide and chattel slavery. The war against Mexico, the quite uncivil war, the Spanish-American war, the massacres in the Philippines, the two World Wars. Dust off a book and check out the post-WWII carnage. Three million dead in Korea, three to five million dead in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. A million or more in Indonesia where our CIA handed out kill lists to Suharto’s regime. Untold atrocities in Nicaragua. Juntas and death squads covering South and Central America, trained at Fort Benning, Georgia. Hundreds of thousands dead in Afghanistan, a million or more in Iraq. Refugees numbered 65 million last year, with 20 million worldwide at risk of starvation.

Welcome to America, where minorities are killed for loose cigarettes or burned-out taillights. Where kids are shot up in school after warning of the madman dozens of times. Where we are chided to “support our troops” as they massacre, where we’re told “blue lives matter” as black men are murdered in cold blood.

The only solution is to abolish the military and the police. There is no reforming to be done. Likewise the nation-state and the corporation must be banned as well. Banish capitalism to the dustbin of history. The neoliberal globalizers (yes, Trump, that means you too) have got to go.

This is the fourth world war, as Subcomandante Marcos explained brilliantly. Billions of people now are no longer needed in the global economy and form the reserve army of temporary, part-time, and seasonal laborers. This is the new precariat, which along with the ever exploited proles constructs and maintains the property of the oligarchs in our new gilded age.

The risks from global warming, nuclear war, industrial pollulants, new pandemics, and food and water shortages from drought, floods, and extreme weather all should remind us that we are constructing our very own abattoir as well. Seven-and-a-half billion of us fighting and scrambling over the scraps and dregs of our fossil fuel age doesn’t paint a pretty picture when you step back and look at things with a global perspective.

There is an absolute nothing at the heart of Western life. This gets touched up in media and the arts, when terms like “Spaceship Earth”, “The Big Empty”, and “Lonely Planet” are used in a playful way, masking our sorrow. Projecting our own isolation and alienation onto the world, we anthropomorphize features and creatures around us and thus imagine that everyone and everything else must be feeling as helpless, bleak, and disturbed as we are.

Yet, it is just not so. Just because the universe is kind of a lonely and scary place does not give us the right to destroy the planet out of fear of our own mortality, our own sense of meaninglessness.

While our foreign wars mutate and mushroom out of control, domestically, America today is increasingly provincial and insular. Like many subcultures, the political realm is dominated by nostalgia, a return to a so-called Golden Age. From “Make America Great Again” to Bernie Sanders’ New Deal/Keynesian/Social Democratic promises, they are all based on delusions. These are delusions of isolationism, delusions that we can use a Scandinavian blueprint onto a population of 320 million, delusions of American exceptionalism, being the indispensable nation.

There is also a delusion regarding the “living wage”. There can only be a living wage coinciding with a radical restructuring of the economy towards sustainability and ecological living. Without this, what would happen? A wage hike to $15/hour would encourage everyone to spend more, consume more, go on more trips and use more fossil fuels. This would not help any single living thing on the planet, as our economy is built to destroy and degrade the Earth’s natural resources and ecosystems.

Comments on US Left Radicals, with Respect

I also sense a split between two strains of Leftist radical thought in the US: the activist/socialist Left and what one might call the counter-culture/spiritual Left. Turns out, each has much to offer the other.

The activists/Marxists will be instrumental in breaking the passivity, new-age hedonism, and tendency to harp on conspiracy theory of the spiritualists. Organization and discipline on the strategic and tactical levels are in short supply, and here socialists have a lot to contribute to the conversation.

As for the counter-culture/spiritual types, they have much to teach the social justice activists and socialist/communist organizers and academics as well. In a very practical sense, those in the counterculture who have “dropped out” are doing a great service by not contributing tax money to our war machine. Those who squat and occupy public land responsibly should also be applauded, not ignored, by the academic Left. The growing movement in permaculture and homesteading also is uniquely absent even in alternative media (is too much patchouli and yoga a repellant for otherwise intrepid journalists?).

There is also an idea as old as time, summed up by the saying “Man does not live by bread alone”. The constant focus of some on the socialist Left on only materialistic problems and solutions (exemplified by some Marxist and lefty economists, among others) and inequality does not give enough weight to questions of inner life in modern society.

Many of the activist/socialists cannot even be counted on to support full drug legalization. Additionally, many ignore the issue of, or are scared at speaking out in favor of, the responsible use of cannabis and psychedelics, even though study after study confirms their beneficial effects. Of course, I’m not trying to inflate the heads of the credentialed experts, as any hippie on Haight-Ashbury or Rasta in Kingston could have confirmed this 50 years ago.

Speaking of the 60s, 50 years ago the French managed to scare De Gaulle out of the country, with an alliance of students, workers, feminists, artists, Leftists, and citizen protestors. Union workers in the US should be supporting high school students’ calls for increased legislation to halt gun violence, as well as college students’ call to end student debt, creating free higher education for universities and community colleges, etc.

Then there are people who fit neither category, including environmentalists, peace activists, anti-nuke and GMO protestors, dissidents, anarchists, etc. For many here, the Greens are simply not anti-capitalist enough, and the socialists do not put enough emphasis on environmental concerns and ecology.

I have offered a respectful critique of one of the main Left parties, Socialist Alternative, in a previous piece, especially their call to “democratize the Fortune 500 companies”, instead of breaking them down to human-scale anarchic cooperatives and inherently questioning the nature of the consumer goods and production model, which contribute to pollution, misery, disease, alienation, and global warming.  Also, their call for a living wage without structural transformation of the industrial system falls flat, for reasons mentioned above.

Last year, Alan Jones wrote a pretty epic essay dismantling the faulty thinking going on in the leadership of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) in an essay here.

What is needed among radicals is more guts, and more imagination. We need more people like SPUSA 2016 presidential candidate Mimi Soltysik who called for the military and the police to be disbanded in the LA Times.

What is necessary is to become more grounded in speech and action. Technological utopianism has to be replaced by scale-appropriate bio-regional and eco-centric Earth-based production techniques. To accomplish this, we will need to reorient our culture and pay respects to the main keepers of this wisdom, the First Nations of Turtle Island, the land we know as North America.


What anyone with a heart wants is a rainbow nation, not in terms of a country or nation-state with borders, but groups of interdependent communities, aka intercommunalism as the Black Panthers called it, where our brown, black, white, yellow, and red sisters and brothers can live and thrive in a veritable kaleidoscope, a mosaic of multicultural and intergenerational cooperation and beauty. To live in cooperation with each other and live close to the Earth, we will have to learn from and adopt the rejuvenating and conflict-avoidant cultural practices of indigenous communities.

Land and property reform are at the center of this agenda, as is instituting a universal basic income. We must utilize the burgeoning fields of bio-dynamic farming, perma-culture, and agro-forestry to feed ourselves. We must decentralize…Small Is Beautiful, as Schumacher explained.

Over the course of human history, the village was the central unit of society, where bio-regional production, markets, and trading dominated. This is how unique culture is formed, where syncretism and blending is encouraged, not denigrated by xenophobic bigots.

The modern city is completely unsustainable as well as uniquely alienating as it divides citizens by class, race, as well as in the more subtle realms of social and cultural capital, as Bourdieu foresaw.

Holistic, ethical science can be used in tandem with decentralizing farming practices and renewable energy infrastructure. The dream of the primitivist, anti-civ, and “green anarchists” (funny how some have tried to appropriate this term, which can apply to a wide spectrum of theory) to go without any modern technology is ridiculous. Sustainably made labor-saving devises should be encouraged, not denigrated, and applied science based on the precautionary principle must be upheld.

Also necessary will be deliberative councils based on merit, publicly broadcast to stimulate citizen input and education, where scientists can openly debate and plan for strategies to mitigate global warming, industrial pollution, medical and psychological epidemics of suffering (drug abuse is rampant in this country and largely attributable to loneliness and alienation, as the Rat Park study showed), etc. Imagine how much more enlightening and interesting watching the top researchers in their fields resolve crises would be, compared to the absolute shit on CNN, CSPAN, FOX, or MSNBC.

Meritocracies are not utopian, and flourish in scientific research, in spontaneous social situations, as well as for open-source coders, engineers, and technologists. Arthur Koestler sketched this idea out a bit in his book Janus, dubbing it “holarchy”.

Global warming continues to be the number one threat to the planet. By opting out of the Paris Accords (a pitiful excuse for a climate agreement, but better than nothing), the US government has  clearly shown itself to be very clearly at war with the world.

Yet “America” does not exist. Borders do not exist. We must become ungovernable, semi-nomadic if need be, like many of our multicultural, cosmopolitan ancestors were. We should re-wild and reinvigorate our natural surroundings through sustainable communal-based agriculture.

This does not mean consigning every family to peasant-level subsistence farming, as likely only 10-15% of the population would need to work in a food-production based capacity and would be compensated for their hard work and dedication compared to our mass society, compared to the 1-3% in our mechanized agro-business model where laborers and seasonal workers are ruthlessly exploited. There must be a mind-shift from a culture based on scarcity to a culture based on natural abundance.

More and more people are waking up to the ever-increasing dangers of runaway climate change and nuclear war. If the Left does not unify and form a cohesive, coherent strategy that speaks to ordinary people, the proto-fascists in Washington as well as the alt-right will continue to scapegoat minorities for capitalisms’ failures in pursuit of their goal of a tyrannical white-supremacist state.

Possibly the most feasible solution to our interlocking crises is to address the elephant in the room: overpopulation. Instituting a global program promoting woman’s education, safe sex, and birth control, and redistribution of wealth to the Global South could help tremendously.

The fragmentation of the Western Left continues because ultimately it is rooted in Eurocentrism, in a Baconian/Cartesian/Newtonian view of science and the universe. The advent of capitalism as well as the cementing of the Westphalian ideology of the nation-state ultimately leads to oligarchy, fascism, and the destruction of the biosphere and natural resources. Revolutionizing the system of global capital and abolishing the nation-state cannot be delayed for reforms that seem more realistic. Our time is running out.

A Million Dollars Isn’t Worth, In Value, What It Used To Be

One of the primary economic paradoxes that has always perked the curiosity of both bourgeois and Marxist political economists alike can be neatly encapsulated in a notorious quip uttered by the famous New York Yankee’s catcher and manager, Yogi Berra, who, once upon a time, famously pronounced: “a nickel isn’t worth a dime, anymore”.

In this simple Yogism lies one of the primary post-modern financial mechanisms by which neoliberal bourgeois-capitalists have sucked value out of the workforce/population, under the cover of western economic opulence, into their own coffers to the bewilderment and detriment of the workforce/population, which slowly sinks ever-deeper into debt misery.  Behind Berra’s quip rests a capitalist sleight of hand, which pivots on the hidden properties of post-modern value-determinations, embodied in fiat-money and wealth. Namely, what Berra’s quip points to is a transfer, or fluctuation, of “worth” over time and space, between a nickel and a dime, despite the fact that the relation between a nickel and a dime remains at face-value technically unchanged and timeless. Berra’s quip points to the declining value of money in society, meaning the declining purchasing power of money, year in and year out, over the passing decades. And this, in a nutshell, is the essence of the rising financial inequality festering across post-industrial, post-modern, bourgeois-state-capitalism.

Unpacking this conundrum is no small feat as this sleight of hand lies at the center of the extraction and accumulation of capitalist profits.  First and foremost, to begin with, this capitalist sleight of hand; i.e., financial mechanism, was initially made possible by western capitalist economies when these western capitalist economies abandoned the gold-standard roughly in the early 1970s. This unfastening of wealth from gold detached value from any manner of universal measurement and/or points of reference which in the past could always be boiled down to the value of gold. Meaning, gold kept the relation between value and money (wealth), static, stable, and most importantly, honest. And, with the abandonment of the gold-standard, the relation between value and money (wealth) became increasingly arbitrary, ambiguous, and devoid of any solid referential basis. Namely, price, value, and wage, that is, value and money (wealth), went post-modern via the abandonment of the gold-standard.

Value and money (wealth) was unfastened and increasingly made subject to the arbitrary whims of bourgeois capitalists. That is, value, price and wage; i.e., value and money (wealth) became increasingly subject to the influence of power and power-relations, which is to say value and money (wealth) increasingly became subject to a new, post-modern, economic base, a base founded on force, influence and state-finance-corporate-networks. When gold was abandoned, the vacuum it left was filled by force, influence, and network-power, whereupon the relation between value and money (wealth) became increasingly a matter of influence, force and power. That is, a matter of networks and power-blocs, capable of determining, stabilizing, and managing the relation between value and money (wealth), according to their own perceived arbitrary standards and artificial determinations. This includes also the artificial, arbitrary, determination of value, price and wage through capitalist networks and power-blocs.

Consequently, the abandonment of the gold-standard opened western capitalist economies to new economic maneuvers, schemes, manipulations, and financial mechanisms, designed to increase capitalist profits for those select few who have the means and the power to do so. The result is, and continues to be, a vast globalized transfer of value from the globalized workforce/population to a small, globalized state-finance-corporate-aristocracy. Specifically, a capitalist aristocracy, which incessantly orchestrates this value-transfer via hidden value/price machinations, which have significantly destabilized the relation between value and money (wealth), while keeping the superficial structure of value and money (wealth) intact and unchanged. Yogi Berra’s witticism apprehends this capitalist trick very well. And, in addition, it is quite apropos that the initiator of post-industrial, post-modern, political-economics, via the abandonment of the gold-standard, should be a man aptly referred to as “Tricky Dick”, which was the informal, derisive, nickname for President Richard Nixon.

When Nixon removed the US economy off the gold-standard, a decision which was eventually adopted by all western economies, it ultimately set forth a post-modern gold rush, namely, a gold-rush grounded in financial manipulations and arbitrary values that would catapult and transform the banking and financial sectors into the premier economic vanguards of neoliberal capitalism, itself. The reason being, the capitalist-system, having gone off the gold standard, and now based on fiat-money, both digital and otherwise, was essentially empowered and privy to create money, seemingly out of nothing, namely, out of thin-air, so as to stimulate incessant capitalist growth and capitalist development.

However, contrary to Marxists, who state that no banking or financial institution whatsoever can create value out of thin-air, this is not really the case when it comes to the abandonment of the gold-standard and fiat money, despite some Marxists and bourgeois economists claiming the opposite. Granted, the creation of money by the central banks, including various financial institutions, appears like the creation of value out of thin-air, but this is not the case in the sense that what actually happens is that the illusion of instant money-creation; i.e., the instant creation of new fiat-money is, in fact, designed to dilute the total sum of value circulating across all sectors of the capitalist-system. The creation of new instant-money merely dilutes value across a larger monetary (wealth and capital) terrain and numerical sum wherefore a million dollars is no longer worth in value what it used to be. This means that there is less value being represented in every dollar with every financial injection of newly minted fiat-money.

Therefore, as Yogi Berra aptly stated “a nickel isn’t worth a dime, anymore”, and the reason is that any increase in fiat-money dilutes value over a larger sum of money (wealth), digital or otherwise, to such a radical extent that, according to Negri and Hardt, capitalists are “no longer able to measure value adequately. [Moreover, due to this dilution process] value can no longer be measured in terms of …labor-time”,1 meaning, that all modern labor theories of value, Marxist or bourgeois, are no longer applicable in the determination of value, price and wage, as “money [has been] unmoored in [this] phase of [complete] financial control”.2

In addition, these injections of instantaneous fiat-money into the economy tend to have the added consequence of resulting in the speed-up of circulation, production, consumption and distribution, both for capitalists and the general-population. The setting of interest rates by banking and financial institutions are supposedly designed to control inflation, but, in fact, they merely hide and veil the dilution of value across a wider economic terrain and a greater numerical sum of money and wealth. That is, interest rates conceal the dilution of value and help ease the transition into greater levels of value-dilution, including the fact that there is less purchasing power embodied in every dollar. Furthermore, the dilution of value, concealed in interest rate manipulations by the central banks and various financial institutions, permit the state-finance-corporate-aristocracy to absorb greater levels of capitalist profits through the cloak of natural inflation, and through the arbitrary manipulation of price, value and wage.

This process enables the state-finance-corporate-aristocracy to suck more value out of the general-population than it allocates unto them via the creation of new instant-money. That is, despite the general-population having access to, and having, more money and wealth than it previously had, the value laid-out across this money and this wealth, is significantly less than previous, due to the instantaneous manifestation of fiat-money, which has significantly increased the numerical sum of money and wealth, thus diluting value over a larger terrain of money and wealth.

To recap:

(1) value is diluted in and across the capitalist economy when money is instantaneously created by the central banks and/or various financial institutions. Meaning, that a million dollars is worth less in value than it previously was; and, moreover, this means that the attainment of a million dollars is easier for the general-population because there is more money circulating in and across the economy, which stimulates the general-population to work harder and buy more. Simultaneously, this also means that one billion dollars is in reach, which decades ago was virtually inconceivable. Notwithstanding, there is less value embodied in the sum of money and wealth, due to value having been diluted over a larger capitalist terrain.

(2) Injections of instant money in and across the economy also means that a person needs more of money (wealth) to acquire commodities due to the fact that commodity-prices, subject to inflation, tend to increase over an extended period of time and space. Notwithstanding, interest rate manipulations ease inflation and any sharp rise in prices, while permitting capitalists certain leeway to increase capitalist profits through the imposition of arbitrary mark-ups, which are validated on the premise of inflation and ever-increasing costs of production. However, these price mark-ups, which are, in fact, arbitrary and artificial fabrications by power-blocs and corporate-networks, always exceed inflation and the new production-costs, allowing for the cultivation of greater capitalist profits and value out of the workforce and the general-population.

The whole financial mechanistic process of the dilution of value is designed to trick the general-population, through a capitalist sleight of hand, by giving the general-population access to greater sums of money (wealth), while simultaneously radically decreasing the value embodied in these greater sums of money and wealth, which means that the general-population has access to less and less value, despite having access to more and more money. The value of the money and wealth, which the general-population has access to, is now worth significantly less than it was prior to the injection of new instantaneous fiat-money by banking and financial institutions. Ultimately, this means the general-population, in reality, has less purchasing power and is worth less with every increase in the numerical sum of money, the reason being the fact that value is diluted over a greater sum of money and wealth.

To sustain its current level of value and purchasing power in its own possession, the workforce/population has to work harder and longer with every new instantaneous creation of fiat-money by the central banks. If it is unable to do this, which on most counts this is the case, then the level of value and purchasing power in the possession of the workforce/population goes down and is transferred to the state-finance-corporate-aristocracy.

For example, in the United-States, the money supply grew “from 6.407 trillion in January 2005, to 18.136 trillion in January 2009”3, which had a profound effect on the relation between value and money (wealth), during this time-frame, as this fiat-money creation out of thin air diluted the amount of value embodied in every dollar. The result was increasing financial inequality between the state-finance-corporate-aristocracy and the workforce/population, including the creation of an ever-widening chasm between value and money (wealth), despite keeping the value-structure of money intact. Moreover, this has also enabled the state-finance-corporate-aristocracy to raise the amount of money (wealth) needed for the general-population to purchase commodities via arbitrary value, price and wage-determinations, founded on nothing but power; i.e., the power to set price, value and wage, according to what an entity can get away with.

According to Negri and Hardt, in the age of post-industrial, post-modern capitalism, “how do [one] measure the value of knowledge, or information, or a relationship of care or trust, or the basic results of education or health services?”4 The answer is derivatives. For Hardt and Negri, “derivatives are part of finance’s response to the problem of measure”5 in the sense that “derivatives and derivative markets…operate…[to] establish commensurability, making an extraordinary wide range of existing and future assets measurable against one another”5. In effect, derivatives bundle together a variety of radically different commodities into a singular finance-commodity, which is then subjected to an arbitrary price and traded unto the global market. Through this economic process, derivatives provide an arbitrary marker for unknown values embodied in highly immeasurable objects, commodities, services etc., which are both conceptual and material in nature.

As Hardt and Negri state, “derivatives …make all manner of capitals across disparate spheres of place, sector and characteristic commensurate with one another”.5 However, what Hardt and Negri fail to see is that derivatives are highly arbitrary and artificial determinations, more or less, artificially fabricated values and prices, founded on the premise of power, that is, the power embodied in the specific ruling capitalist networks and power-blocs, which govern and dominate specific spheres of production such as finance. Derivatives are fictional manifestations and commodities, whose value and price-determinations have nothing to do with economic reality and everything to do with what a set of capitalist power-blocs can get away with, price-wise, within and across the marketplace.

As Marx might say, they are founded on “the whim of the rich and the capitalist”6, namely, power. That is, the power of a specific, capitalist-network to set the parameters and the sum of value and price across an industry, pertaining to a particular commodity, whether this is a mental commodities derivative, or a physical commodities derivative, while being able to maintain this value sum and price sum for an extended period of time and space, until this arbitrary value and price becomes, legitimately, an industry and global market norm. Therefore, contrary to Hardt and Negri, it is not derivatives, which establish commensurability between radically different commodities, it is power; i.e., the exercise of power through the medium of derivatives, which ultimately establishes artificial value and price, despite these values and prices being completely arbitrary and artificial constructs. Behind derivatives and derivative markets lie corporate, capitalist power-blocs, and capitalist networks, which pull the strings of power, according to the arbitrary whims of their mercenary impulses, which increasingly command maximum extraction and accumulation of surplus value. That is, maximum profit by any means necessary.

Likewise, the value embodied in derivatives, or a million dollars, decreases with every augmentation in the money (wealth) supply. The decrease in value is the result of dilution due to a larger sum of money and wealth now in circulation. Moreover, as the general-population requires more and more wealth to acquire commodities, as it did between 2005 and 2009, it begins to rely increasingly on credit, credit which eventually increases household debt for the general-population. And, between 2005 and 2009, this is exactly what happened for most of the general-population.

Consequently, through a combination of the dilution of value embodied in money (wealth) and the appropriation of greater sums of profit and value from the general-population, via inflation and exaggerated price mark-ups, global financial inequality has drastically increased between 2005 and 2009, resulting in a greater debt-load across the general-population coupled with greater profits and a greater value-transfer for the most well-off.  In effect, value flowed to the 1% during this period, which saw their incomes, purchasing power, and their wealth significantly increase, while the 99%, saw their incomes, their purchasing power and their wealth stagnate or significantly decrease. The reason was the fact that the 1% was able to keep up with the new, artificially fabricated rate of dilution in value, across a broader capital terrain, while the 99% could not keep up with the new, artificially fabricated, rate of dilution in value.

Furthermore, in an ironic twist of fate, through the dilution of value over a greater sum of money and wealth via the instant creation of fiat-money, the general-population has been led to believe it is acquiring more value and is witness to the increasing elimination of financial inequality, due to the fact that it has more wealth and access to wealth in its hands than ever before. However, this is an illusion in the sense that the general-population, although capable of accessing more wealth and is seemingly in possession of more wealth, nonetheless, has the same or less amount of value in its possession, due to the fact that this value is stretched out over a larger sum of wealth and money, coupled with larger amounts of debt.

This process of diluted value, by the central banks and other financial institutions, is nothing but a capitalist scheme by which to get the general-population spending more, namely, by tricking the general-population into believing it is wealthier, which is not factually the case. In fact, by spending more, the general-population invariably lowers the amount of value in its possession and increasingly transfers this precious value to the upper-echelons of the capitalist-pyramid; i.e., the 1%, that is, the state-finance-corporate-aristocracy, through debt, through interest payments and through exaggerated commodity-prices. Namely, through an incessant, financial process of continuous value extraction out of the workforce/population and into the pockets and hands of the state-finance-corporate-aristocracy; i.e., a small set of micro-fascist, oligarchical networks.

Additionally, this leaves the general-population increasingly indebted to the financial institutions of the state-finance-corporate-aristocracy, which invariably increases financial inequality between the general-population; i.e., the 99%, and the state-finance-corporate-aristocracy; i.e., the 1%, at an ever-increasing rate, with every artificial dilution of value. This globalized transfer of value, under the guise of the increasing opulence of the general-population through mass consumerism and financial schemes, essentially picks up steam with the elimination of the gold-standard in the early 1970s, which permitted the state-finance-corporate-aristocracy to increasingly misrepresent the relation of value and money (wealth), through price, value and wage machination, which technically allowed the general-population to superficially have more, but, in fact, to possess increasingly less in terms of value. That is, the manipulation of the amount of value embodied in every dollar, which has been steadily and progressively decreasing with each new magical financial injection of fiat-money (wealth) into the economy, has permitted the perpetuation of this capitalist ruse.

Wherefore, the general-population, technically, possesses more things and commodities, but yet, in fact, increasingly owns less of the total sum of value across the globe, which is embodied in these things and commodities. Of course, the reverse is true for the state-finance-corporate-aristocracy, whereupon value is increasingly being sucked out of the workforce/population across the globe and siphoned into the coffers of the 1%. The result is an ever-increasing share in the total sum of value for the state-financial-corporate-aristocracy, which invariably comes at the expense of the global workforce/population. According to Hardt and Negri, this “monetary instability of finance and speculation, [manifested due to the arbitrariness of derivatives and fiat-money, simultaneously] corresponds to the precarity of labor”.7

In sum, this is a process of generalized global impoverishment, which is concealed behind the mask of capitalist opulence and magnified by capitalist mass consumerism, capitalist instant credit and convoluted capitalist financial mechanisms. Indeed, the overwhelming result of these capitalist schemes is the increasing imprisonment of the general-population into increasing debt. Because every dollar of wealth the general-population possesses, even if it makes more money and possesses more wealth than previous generations, has had its value stretched-out over a greater sum of wealth and money. Meaning, the value embodied in this wealth is less than, or equal to, the value possessed by previous generations, who on the surface seemingly possessed less wealth; i.e., value, than the contemporary workforce/population, but, in fact, own more things and commodities outright.

This is the post-modern capitalist sleight of hand, ushered-in with the abandonment of the gold-standard, wherefore the total sum of value in the world is having to be increasingly spread-out over more money (wealth) than any prior time in human history. Debt is the prime indicator that there is less and less value embodied in wealth and that a million dollars isn’t worth in value what it used to be. Today, the general-population may, theoretically, own their own houses on paper, but their mortgages tell a different story in the sense that, in actuality, the banks own these houses whereupon the general-population is ensnared in rent-to-own schemes where they are dishing out more value than they are getting back. In effect, when they actually own their houses outright after paying-off their mortgages, they will have paid far more in price and in value than the actual worth and value embodied in their homes. Today, houses have less value embodied in them, and moreover, due to inflationary real-estate schemes and outlandish property mark-ups, the general-population may only own, in actuality, the front-door on their dwellings while the banks own the rest. It is in this regard that the general-population is sinking ever deeper into debt-slavery and is increasingly falling under the thumb of the state-finance-corporate-aristocracy.

Indeed, Yogi Berra was right, more so than he, himself, realized at the time, when he uttered that magic phrase: “a nickel isn’t worth a dime, anymore”.  However, the frightening prospect is that this dilution process is not over, due to the fact, as Hardt and Negri state, increasingly in our “contemporary [post-industrial] phase, the creation of money is determined primarily by financial instruments, …instruments [which] generate money in the manner of lending banks, that is, by lending more money than they have”.8 And, because of this excess of monetary and wealth creation, which increasingly dilutes value evermore towards nil, soon a dime will be worth less than a nickel is today, and a nickel less than a penny is today, and a penny less than nothing.

Conveniently, all the while the state-finance-corporate-aristocracy, through sleight of hand, will strengthen its stranglehold on humanity and reduce the human condition to corporate-techno-capitalist-feudalism. That is, a plethora of corporate fiefdoms populated by a litany of post-industrial, post-modern, debt-serfs, crushed beneath the overwhelming weight of interest payments, insurmountable debt, and the ever-increasing threat of full automation. As Karl Marx eloquently surmised, in Das Capital (Volume One):

The production of surplus value, or the making of profits, is the absolute law of this [type of capitalist] mode of …[value] extraction…[wherefore] every accumulation becomes the means for new accumulation…[and] the concentration of capital, …[where] capital [eventually] grows to a huge mass in a single hand in one place, because it has been lost by many in [every] other place. [The result is] the accumulation of wealth at one pole [and] the accumulation of misery, …slavery, ignorance, brutalization and …degradation at the opposite pole.9

Indeed, this drawn-out, socio-economic process of value-dilution and value-transfer is gradually engineering capitalist society, through sleight of hand, into one giant, monetary-based, capitalist pyramid. That is, a corporate-techno-capitalist-feudalism where the 1% reap greater and greater portions of global values, while the 99% are increasingly forced into debt servitude. Namely, into a vast, globalized horde of post-industrial, post-modern, debt-serfs, who must accept any sort of degrading work possible, both in order to escape the ravages of unemployment and sate the appetites of their state-finance-corporate overlords, demanding higher profits, less these newly-minted debt-serfs be rendered utterly destitute and excluded.

  1. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Assembly, (London, England: Oxford University Press, 2017) p. 164.
  2. Ibid, p. 186.
  3. See: Money Creation.
  4. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Assembly, (London, England: Oxford University Press, 2017) p. 165.
  5. Ibid, p. 165.
  6. Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, Ed. Martin Milligan (Mineola, New York: Dover Publications Inc., 2007) 21.
  7. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Assembly, (London, England: Oxford University Press, 2017) p. 186.
  8. Ibid, p. 191.
  9. Karl Marx, Capital (Volume One), Trans. Ben Fowkes (London Eng.: Penguin, 1990) pp. 769-799.

Ensuring Justice In The Era Of Transformation

In our last article, we predicted that the 2020s will be an era of transformation.  We focused on the development of the movement since the “Take-Off” phase of the 2011 Occupy encampments, followed by Black Lives Matter, Fight for $15, Idle No More, carbon infrastructure protests, debt resistance, immigration protests and more. The 2020s will be a decade when the impacts of years of mismanagement of crisis situations, such as climate change, inequality and US militarism, become unavoidable requiring major transformations. What we do now to prepare will help determine the result.

Transformative Era will be Driven by Long Neglected Issues

For many of the issues the popular movement has been raising, the government has failed to act or taken counterproductive actions, putting the profits and interests of campaign donors ahead of the necessities of people and protection of the planet. The environment is being destroyed, the food supply is being poisoned by pesticides and the wealth divide is widening.

The massive threat of climate change has become more immediate and worse. In the last year, the scientific consensus has become more dire. The impacts are upon us now wildfires and superstorms, war brought on by drought, mass migrations and deaths.

At the same time multiple analyses and government reports point to a fading US empire. Since the end of World War II, the US has dominated the globe politically, economically and militarily becoming the largest empire in world history. That era is coming to an end.

In his new book, In the Shadows of the American Century, historian and chronicler of empire Alfred McCoy writes that US empire will end in the next decade. The US is falling behind in all spheres of influence. McCoy demonstrates how US spying on foreign governments and using torture in multiple countries have undermined the US’ moral authority, as have aggressive bullying for corporation-friendly trade deals, holding back climate agreements in the Obama era and pulling out of the climate agreement in the Trump era. He chronicles the rise of China, India and Russia, among other countries. The power dynamics of the world are changing with the US being left out of important decisions while China and Russia work in tandem in more areas.

McCoy describes various scenarios for how US empire will end, depending on how the current crises play out. No matter what happens, it is up to those of us living in the US to demand the US dismantles its empire in a way that causes the least harm. Paul Street writes, “the decline of the American Empire might be a good thing for ordinary people at home as well as abroad.” Ending empire is an opportunity for changes that move us toward being a cooperative nation in a multipolar world rather than hanging on to power through military might.

The end of empire will have many repercussions. Public investment in empire has meant a lack of investment on urgent needs; e.g., repairing failing and inadequate infrastructure, rebuilding cities that have been ignored, especially in black and brown communities, strengthening education from pre-school through post-graduate, to name a handful of many inadequately-funded areas. The empire economy helped create an unfair economy at home that pushed people into poverty, debt and homelessness. To reverse those impacts, the US must shift military spending to meet civilian needs and provide funding for a new democratized economy.

System-changing Issues

The credibility of the power structure that allowed these crises to fester will shrink. On each of the issues where the people’s movement has been growing, those in power have either denied reality and done nothing or have made matters worse through counterproductive policies. Multiple crisis situations barreling toward us require mobilization for system change, not simple reforms.

The US democracy crisis is due to the corruption of money in elections, laws that prevent challenges by third parties, media that warps coverage in favor of the duopoly, gerrymandering and more. The mirage of US elections has become evident to tens of millions of people resulting in both duopoly parties being unpopular and in disarray.

System failure is also a failure of the capitalist economic system, dominated by Wall Street, monopolies and massive transnational corporations. The kleptocrats in power are looting public treasures, monetizing and profiteering off our basic necessities such as water, energy and transportation. Increasing numbers of people agree we need a new economy based on economic democracy and the Commons where key sectors are socialized and under democratic control.

In Seymour Melman and the New American Revolution, Jonathan Feldman describes Melman’s ideas for dismantling empire and capitalism and shifting economic and political power to people through worker ownership and other democratized systems.

The movement must position itself for this coming era of transition by: (1) weakening the power structure by protest of mistaken policies and building alternatives to replace them; and (2) specifically defining the transformations we want so that the power holders cannot deceive us with false measures.

Opportunities to build movement power

Economic justice: Inequality in the United States is extreme and the world’s wealthy grow obscenely richer. Three people in the US have wealth equal to half the population while millions in urban areas have zero wealthtens of millions cannot handle a surprise $500 expense and an entire generation is entering adulthood in massive debt to a job market that will keep them in debt.

Over the last 40 years, CEO pay rose 937 percent while worker compensation remained stagnant. The recent tax cuts will add to all of these problems with increased debt caused by tax cuts for the rich causing cuts to social safety net programs like Medicaid and privatizing Social Security and Medicare. An economic crash seems almost inevitable as this decade comes to a close.

National consensus on issues like taxing the rich and building the economy from the bottom up will grow, creating opportunities for new economy programs; e.g., workers owning businesses, laws ensuring a livable wage, public banks, participatory budgeting where people decide public expenditures, a guaranteed income to ensure people can meet their basic needs and other programs giving people power in the economy. Not only should the recently-passed tax cuts be repealed, but an aggressively progressive income and wealth tax should be put in place along with a financial transactions tax to shrink the wealth divide and finance essential services.

Healthcare as a public good: Health care continues to be a top issue of concern as people cannot afford necessary care. Even with insurance, the deductibles and co-pays on top of high premiums are unaffordable and tens of millions of people cannot afford any insurance. To confront the healthcare crisis, the US most move from a system dominated by profits for insurance companies, Big Pharma and providers to a system where health care is a public good with equal access for all funded by a progressive tax. National improved Medicare for all has majority support and is poised to become a litmus test issue in upcoming elections.

Internet freedom with equal access for all and independent media: The attack on net neutrality has created a massive movement and national consensus that access to the Internet should be equal for all. People recognize that the Internet is essential to participate in the economy, politics and culture, resulting in calls to nationalize the Internet. The quality of Internet service must be improved so there is high speed Internet, as exists in other developed countries. We must create an Internet for the 21st Century.

Further concentration of media is limiting access to a diversity of views. Freedom of speech in the 21st Century requires protection of political speech on the Internet not only from government but from corporations; e.g., Google and Facebook, that control social media. Laws must protect independent and social media as democracy requires diverse information and robust debate.

Confronting climate change and reversing environmental degradation: There must be a rapid transition to a clean energy economy, which will create jobs for those who install solar, wind and other clean energy sources, construct efficient transit and housing, and conduct research to develop technology needed to remake the economy. The climate crisis will impact all aspects of life, including food, farming, water management, housing and more. Energy must be democratized so people who create more energy are compensated as producers and energy is socialized through public utilities. A carbon tax will encourage the change to clean energy and provide funds for the transition.

End of empire: There will be massive shifts in the economy at home and abroad and in foreign policy as empire comes to an end. The military-security state comprises a large and decentralized sector of the US economy. A just transition to a civilian peace economy will be required. The US will no longer have the power to coerce countries into signing trade deals, an economic arm of empire, that allow the exploitation of workers, communities and the environment. A new era of trade designed to protect people and planet will become possible. New international institutions will be needed to correct the weaknesses of the United Nations and allow governance that protects human rights and economic and racial equality. Mechanisms will be required to resolve conflicts between nations peacefully.

Systemic Racism: Through all these issues, racism, a hierarchy of power that allows one group of people to dominate another, is intimately intertwined. Institutions that perpetuate racism and inequality will need to be dismantled. This is not identity politics, as some have accused, nor does it negate the suffering and oppression of poor white people. It is a reality that must be faced if we are to create new systems that do not default to disparities between groups of people. Indigenous rights and sovereignty must be respected. Reparations must be paid for generations of stolen wealth.

The Task of Insuring Justice

While transitions are inevitable, it is not inevitable they will be made based on economic, racial and environmental justice and peace. It is our responsibility to educate ourselves and each other so people understand the root causes of the crises we face, build popular power and create alternative systems that have desirable results. This is not the time for reform or the belief that we just need to elect the right person. The current systems, including the electoral system, are rigged against us and we need to use popular power change them.

As Kevin Buckland writes in Roar Magazine:

If we fail to offer scalable discursive, tactical and structural alternatives to the extractivist logic that has created the climate crisis, capitalism may itself transform the coming wave of disruptions into its own benefit, exacerbating existent inequalities for every social and ecological ‘issue’ as it strengthens its stranglehold of the future on a rapidly destabilizing battleground.

Buckland focuses on the climate crisis, but the same is relevant for other crises. A crisis  provides an opportunity for change. Those who have solutions on hand and power will determine what type of change occurs.

We face formidable opponents. They have resources, money and tools that can thwart our efforts. But this is nothing new. All movements for social transformation have faced difficult odds, still they have prevailed. We outnumber our opponents and when we work together, though we may not have the money, we do have resources and tools. We also have allies.

At a recent family gathering, one of our relatives who does human rights work remarked that people in other countries feel that they should be able to vote in US elections because the US has such a significant global impact. While that isn’t going to happen, there are ways that the international community outside the US can have influence, and that is through boycotts, divestments and sanctions. This can happen at the individual level, through institutions such as universities and at the governmental level. Activists can call on their governments to target US institutions of military and economic dominance.

During the South African Apartheid, it was South African activists who called on other nations to boycott their country. This was a primary reason why apartheid ended. A decade ago, hundreds of Palestinians came together and called for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) of Israel. The BDS movement is having such a great effect that Israel is fighting to stop it.

And while we are reaching out to our international allies, we can share information with each other about what systems work and don’t work so that we can create the new world we need more rapidly. Collectively, we have greater wisdom than individually.

We live in a difficult time, but it is also a time of opportunities to correct our mistakes and build something better. Change is coming. As we wrote in 2011, history is knocking. We must all decide in 2018 how we will answer it.

Preparing For The Coming Transformation

The year 2017 has been another active year for people fighting on a wide range of fronts. The Trump administration has brought many issues that have existed for years out into the open where they are more difficult to deny – racism, colonialism, imperialism, capitalism and patriarchy and the crises they create. More people are activated and greater connections between the fronts of struggle are creating a movement of movements. These are positive developments, bright spots in difficult times. They are the seeds of transformative change that we can nurture and grow if we act with intention.

The crises we face have been building for decades. They are reaching a point of extremism that will create an even greater response by people. What that response is, where it goes and what it accomplishes are up to all of us to determine.

The overreach by the plutocrats in power may bring a boomerang effect, energizing the population to take action and demand the changes we desire and need. We may reach a moment, a turning point, when the movements for economic, racial and environmental justice, as well as peace, can win significant changes, beyond the comfort zones of those in power. The boomerang will only occur if we educate and organize for it, and its size will also depend on us.

We have no illusions that this work will be easy. Those in power will do all that they can to derail, misdirect and suppress our efforts. Our tasks are to resist their tactics and maintain our focus on our end goals. This requires understanding how social movements succeed and being clear in our demands for transformative change.

We see several key areas where people are energized to work for changes that are opportunities to expand the current movement of movements into a powerful force that will overcome the stranglehold by the corporate duopoly parties. This is the first of two articles to help prepare us for the work ahead. In the second article, we will describe these key issues in greater depth and what we need to do to create the transformative moment we need.

The Long Development of this Transformative Era

The era of transformation has been developing over many decades. If we view it through presidential administrations, a frame of reference used commonly in the United States, we see that both major parties represent the interests of the wealthy and corporations, not the majority of the population, and that they effectively divide and weaken popular movements.

After Bill Clinton’s administration loosened regulations on finance, setting the stage for the 2008 crash, brought in trade agreements like NAFTA and weakened the social safety net, and George W. Bush’s administration expanded military aggression around the world and the domestic security state, as well as further enriching the wealthy, people were hungry for change. Barack Obama effectively built his ‘hope and change’ campaign around this desire, vaguely but eloquently promising what people wanted. His words allowed people to imagine that a transformation was coming.

Obama raised expectations, but he did not fulfill them. His cabinet was made up of Wall Streeters from Citigroup. He continued and expanded foreign wars, the wealth divide grew and tens of millions went without healthcare even after his private insurance-based Affordable Care Act became law. The frustration that had been building during the Clinton-Bush years burst onto the scene with Occupy, Fight for $15, Black Lives Matter, debt resistance, immigration reform, Idle No More and other fronts of struggle.

After Occupy, the media told us the people’s struggle went away, but, as we show in the daily movement news reporting on Popular Resistance, all of those struggles expanded. The corporate media’s failure to cover the national mass protest movement does not change reality — the resistance movements continue, are growing and are impacting popular opinion and policies.

Where We Are and What We Must Do

In 2013, we wrote a two part series describing the status of the movement and what the movement must do. In the December 2013 article, “Closer than We Think” we described the eight stages of social movements, an analysis by long-time civil rights and anti-nuclear activist, Bill Moyer. The movement had gone through the “Take-Off”, Stage Four of the social movement when encampments covered the country, seemingly overnight, and brought the issues of the wealth divide, racist policing, climate change, student debt and other issues to the forefront. The meme of the 99% against the 1% illustrated the conflict between people power and the power holders. We passed through Stage Five, “the Landing,” where the encampments disappeared and people asked, “What happened? Did we accomplish anything?”

Our second article in January 2014 focused on the tasks of the movement and explained that we were now in Stage Six, the final stage before victory. This is a long-term phase that could last years where the goal is to build broad national consensus of 70% to 90% support among the public for the goals of the movement and to mobilize people as effective change agents.

During this phase, the contradictions in the system become more obvious to people. For example, as the United States and world experience the harsh realities of climate change in massive storms, widespread fires, droughts and famine, the government’s response is inadequate. When Obama was president his administration was an anchor on the world, weakening international climate and trade agreements. His secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, used her influence to promote fracking. The Trump administration has gone further, denying climate change, erasing words and phrases that describe it from government reports, silencing scientists and undermining the inadequate steps made to confront climate change that were put in place in the Obama era.

The inadequate response to the climate crisis is one example of many multiple crisis situations that exist in which the government does not respond, responds inadequately or even takes actions that make these crises worse. In some cases, the power holders go too far, as we see in the recently passed tax bill, designed to protect the donor class, and in abusive police practices as the racism and violence of our society are exposed. The overreaction in the end helps build the national consensus we need to achieve our objectives.

The contradictions arise because there are obvious solutions to each crisis we face, but those in power refuse to put them in place. National consensus for these solutions grows during this phase, and the failures of the money-dominated political system become more obvious.

As a result, a transformative moment is building now. It can be seen in the 2016 presidential campaigns where people showed frustration with both corporate parties. Electoral challenges inside the parties showed populist anger based on hundreds of millions of people struggling every day to survive in an unfair economy. Donald Trump built his campaign around economic insecurity from the right and Senator Bernie Sanders did the same from the left. Now, Trump is betraying conservative populists with economic and healthcare policies that add to their insecurity and with the wealthiest cabinet in US history serving the interests of Wall Street, the self-interest of elected officials and adding to the distrust of the DC duopoly. The realization of Trump’s betrayal is only beginning to show itself in the lives of those who supported him.

The Democrats have been struggling to come to grips with how they lost to Donald Trump. A large part of the party is in denial, blaming their failures on the fiction of Russiagate — claiming the Russians were responsible for their loss rather than a widely-disliked candidate who represented Wall Street and war for her entire career. The Democrats continue their internal divide: the divide between Wall Street donors who want the party to serve their interests and voters who want the party to represent their interests. Invariably the Democrats will be unable to turn their backs on their donors and will nominate a fake change agent who will spout popular progressive rhetoric and dash those hopes when in office.

It is critical for us to step out of the limitations of two and four year election cycles and recognize that social transformation does not arise by electing the perceived least evil. Social transformation occurs through a people-powered movement of movements that arises over decades of struggle and shifts the political reality so that the power holders must respond.

Issues Driving the Backlash 

There will be a backlash. It will look to the Democrats like a backlash against Trump’s extremism, but it will be broader. It will be a backlash against the extremism of the corporate duopoly. Their bi-partisan policies always put the wealthy and big business interests first. The boomerang will be built on the conflict between the necessities of the people and the planet vs. the greed of the wealthy.

There are a number of fundamental issues that are priorities for large majorities of the population, around which people are mobilizing and where national consensus is developing. They have the potential to connect our movements into a powerful force.

One of our tasks is to develop clear demands so that we cannot be side-tracked by false or partial solutions. If these fundamental issues are addressed through bold and transformative solutions, they will shift the political culture and our political system in a significant way towards the people-powered future we need. They will create change at the root causes of the crises we face.

These transformative issues include economic inequality, lack of access to health care, ensuring Internet freedom and a people’s media, confronting climate change and environmental disasters, ending US Empire and militarism at home, and addressing domestic human rights abuses, whether it is exploitation of workers, mass incarceration, racism or disrespect for Indigenous sovereignty. Throughout all of these issues there is a thread of racial injustice so our struggles must not just solidify around class issues, but must also solidify around the necessity of ending systemic racism.

We will address these issues and next steps in greater depth in the first newsletter of the new year. We wish all of you a peaceful week and hope you are able to spend time with loved ones. We are committed to being with you through the struggle and to doing all we can to stop the machine and create a new world.

Crises and Automation

According to Friedrich Engels, Anti-Duhring, “the only value known in economics is the value of commodities”.1 Commodities are products produced, not for individual consumption by their producers, but products produced for general public consumption. The value of a commodity, according to Engels, is determined via comparison with other commodities, namely, “they can be…said to be equal or unequal [with other commodities], according to the quantity of [general human] labor embodied in each”.2

As a result, for Engels, “social conditions remaining the same, two equal private products, [that is, commodities] may embody an unequal quantity of individual labor, but they always embody only an equal quantity of general human labor”.2 For Engels, commodities are produced according to many different types of individual labor expenditures, such as sowing, tanning, writing, pressing, etc., which may require shorter or longer work-periods, but despite these variable labor expenditures, at the abstract level these variable labor expenditures have the same value as abstract labor. That is, all commodities share and embody generalized human labor; i.e., abstract labor, and are equated as such, despite the various durations of their individual labor and labor-expenditures.

Abstract-labor is labor which can be reduced to quantification, specifically, scientific quantification, across a litany of different types of specific labor-expenditures. As a result, what different types of labor-expenditures share is that they are all forms of abstract-labor; i.e., quantifiable units of labor-time. It is through measurements of quantities of labor-power that commodities acquire value, share value and are able to be exchanged via these equalizing, measurable values, within the marketplace. Abstract labor is labor-power measured in quantifiable units of time.

Notwithstanding, despite value being the product and a measurement of scientific quantification, for Engels the value of a commodity is specifically a social measurement of scientific quantification. That is, the value of a commodity is, in fact, a social average of the sum of the labor-time calculated in a specific sphere of production, pertaining to a specific commodity. As Engels states:

An unskilled smith makes five horseshoes in the same time as a skillful smith makes ten. Society does not make the accidental lack of skill of an individual the basis of valuation; it recognizes as general human labor only labor of a normal average degree of skill at the particular time. Therefore, one of the five horseshoes made by the first smith has no more value in exchange than one of the ten made by the other in the same time. Individual labor contains general human labor only in so far as it is socially necessary.3

In this regard, for Engels, general human labor is socially necessary labor-time. It is the average labor-time socially necessary to produce a specific commodity across an individual sphere of production. And the value of a commodity “is determined…by the labor-time socially necessary for….[its] production”.4 It is important to note here that, for Engels, socially necessary labor-time; i.e., general human labor, “is usually measured, in labor-hours or days, etc., but in a roundabout way, through exchange, relatively. This definite quantity of labor time [is] not [necessarily] in labor-hours—[which] remains unknown—but… in a roundabout way, [via exchange, this] equal quantity of …social labor-time [is established]”.5 As a result, socially necessary labor-time, that is, general human labor for a given commodity, is measured in exact scientific units of labor-time; however, through exchange, this is flexible and a roundabout calculation in the sense that socially necessary labor-time is established in a roundabout way as a social average of all identical commodities exchanged in the marketplace.

For example, for Engels, lawnmowers of a similar make and model will exchange in the marketplace according to an average, socially necessary labor-time, which regulates this specific sphere of production, labor-time being, for Engels, scientifically quantifiable labor-time and nothing else. Consequently, according to Engels, despite the variability between the exact, scientifically, quantifiable labor-time embodied in a specific commodity in relation to the average socially necessary labor-time for these specific types of commodities, the value of a commodity, regardless of social necessity, is nevertheless fundamentally based on scientifically quantifiable units of labor-time.

Therefore, in Marx and Engels’ case, value in general, and value of a specific commodity, are always based on a median average of all the labor-time required to produce a specific type of commodity within a specific sphere of production. As a result, for Marx and Engels, value is solely an expression; i.e., an average expression of the scientific time-quantification of a commodity’s production-process, namely, the scientific quantification of labor-power expressed both as an exact time-measurement and as a broad average spanning the whole production sphere for a specific type of commodity, namely, socially necessary labor-time. It is in this regard that commodities can be equated, according to Marx and Engels, in the sense that they reflect and embody scientifically quantifiable labor-time and express an average of socially necessary labor-time.

For Marx and Engels, value is something scientifically quantifiable, whether value is an exact measurement of labor-power and/or an average expression of socially necessary labor-time. For Marx and Engels, there is no getting around this scientific fact. This fact lies at the basis of the capitalist production sphere and the consumption/circulation sphere in the sense that commodities are produced and exchanged based on the regulatory mechanism of socially necessary labor-time and scientific quantification. This is the nexus of Marx and Engels’ rational labor theory of value, namely, the law of value.

Notwithstanding, Marx and Engels’ rational labor theory of value is not universal, despite the fact that it claims otherwise, meaning that the rational labor theory of value is something grounded in the social collective, rather than any science. That is, it is not science that establishes a theory of value, but a socioeconomic community, which agrees through the medium of various mechanisms and institutional apparatuses to subscribe to a particular manner of determining value, price and wage, meaning that value, price and wage are things, which are socially constructed rather than scientifically measured.  As a result, value, price and wage are things far more subjective, arbitrary and artificial than Marx and Engels surmised. Value and its corresponding expression, price, is a conceptual-perception, more or less, established in the mind, both of the individual and/or a collective, rather than through any scientific quantification, although this is always a possibility.

As Marx states in Capital (Volume 3), “value is not present at the phenomenal level, in the exchange relationship of capitalistically produced commodities; it does not dwell in…empirical fact but an ideal or logical one”,6, meaning value and price are conceptual-perceptions, their connection is an ideal one, fabricated in the mind, by the mind, itself. In similar fashion, Pierre Joseph Proudhon correctly deduces in What Is Property?, that “value…is based on…opinion”7 in the sense that “value…is variable”.8 It is something that is socially fabricated and settled within the conceptual-perceptions of a community, whether it is through society and/or the individual, him or herself, namely, “the individual…fixes…price by the value placed upon his [or her] product by the public”.9 And this value and price-determination have relatively nothing to do with scientific quantification of labor-time and everything to do with conceptual-perception; i.e., ideological influences on conceptual-perception. And increasingly, within post-industrial, post-modern, bourgeois-state-capitalism, this is the case. As Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri state in Empire: 

In the [age] of Empire, value is outside of measure. In contrast to those who have long claimed that value can  be affirmed only in the figure of measure and order, we argue that value…[is] immeasurable. In postmodern capitalism there is no longer a fixed scale that measures value. In Empire, the construction of value takes place beyond measure….[because] in postmodernity …labor…functions outside measure.10

Like Proudhon, for Hardt and Negri, value is something, due to the advent of post-modernity, which lies outside scientific measurement. Value is something which is socially constructed, according to arbitrary imperatives, due to the fact that labor, as well, is something which lies outside scientific measurement, whose parameters are socially constructed according to arbitrary imperatives. For Hardt and Negri, labor is something that lies outside scientific measurement because what constitutes productive labor is today something that extends beyond the traditional factory across society, in general.

In contrast to Marx and Engels, for Hardt and Negri, labor and value are increasingly immeasurable in the age of Empire and post-modernity, because labor and value-determinations are no longer based in production, but, in fact, have transcended the modern industrial factory and now permeate the sum of social relations across society, in general. Labor is immeasurable because every moment in an individual’s life, living in post-industrial, post-modern capitalism, is a moment of production, from womb to tomb. Moreover, value is immeasurable as well because what is valuable today is no longer fixed. Value is no longer measureable because labor is no longer fixed inside the industrial factory; labor and value have become post-industrial and post-modern, meaning that labor and value have become subject to a variety of determining factors and models of analysis, calculation and determination outside Marx and Engels’ law of value. Due to the fact that labor and value are no longer solely localized in the traditional factory, many unquantifiable elements flow into value, price and wage.

As Hardt and Negri state, “the price of labor-power, like the price of grain, oil and other commodities is really determined socially and is the index of a whole series of [models and] social struggles,”11 meaning that value and the price of labor are increasingly determined through conceptual-perception, namely, the struggle between antagonistic ideologies, both conceptually and materially. That is, they are social constructs, fabricated in the minds of people through conceptual, ideological, and material struggles, across the social factory; i.e., the sum of society, due to the fact that “labor [has] moved outside the [traditional] factory walls” 12 to the point where every moment of one’s life is a moment of production, distribution and consumption.

As a result, unquantifiable elements, infecting the determination of value and price, have short-circuited all traditional, modern modes of measurements, and increasingly subjected value and price to the vagaries of conceptual-perception and/or corporate desire, pertaining to those whose network-power can dominate a particular sphere of production. Therefore, within post-industrial, post-modern, bourgeois-state-capitalism, value and price are sums which are ideologically manufactured by governing network-formations outside any rational calculation and/or foundation. In the age of post-industrial, post-modern capitalism, power is the great arbiter of value, price and wage, not any scientific quantification of labor-power.

The reason for this shift towards such a post-industrial, post-modern theory of value, based on whim, arbitrariness and power, is the result of the logic of capitalism and its attempts to maximize profit, that is, the logic which dictates “the maximization of profit, by any means necessary, at the lowest financial cost, as soon as possible”.13 Via this fundamental capitalist imperative, which all capitalists must adhere to because this logical imperative lies at the heart of the capitalist-system, in general, all capitalists, regardless of their individual selfish desires, must conform, extend, and maximize this logical imperative inherent in capitalism. This means that all production costs must be decreased to the minimum, while in contrast, profits must be increased to the maximum.

The essence of capitalism is fundamentally about lowering production costs to the minimum, ideally to zero, while maximizing profits to the Nth degree, a zenith determined by the current, socioeconomic parameters of capitalism and the capitalist system in general. This drive to lower production costs while maximizing profits is the engine of all capitalist developments, all capitalist expansions, and all capitalist intensifications, including all psychological and physical immiserations of the general population, derived from this specific capitalist mode of production and the tensions generated by this capitalist mode of production. This drive to lower production costs while maximizing profits, which stems directly from the logical imperative generated by the logic of capitalism situated at the center of socioeconomic existence and capitalist society, is the crux of all socioeconomic crises and breakdowns, including an ever-deepening, socioeconomic antagonism.

Socioeconomic crises and socioeconomic breakdowns arise when the stress between the drive to lower production costs to the lowest possible sum and the drive to maximize profit to the highest possible sum, extend beyond any sustainable and/or reasonable limit, where socioeconomic equilibrium is radically distorted and destabilized to such a radical point whereupon segments and sectors of the capitalist-system, itself, begin to seize-up, collapse and degenerate into radical antagonisms.

While it is true, that the spur of ever-increasing technological revolution/evolution, ever-increasing division of labor, ever-increasing State-finance-centralization, and ever-increasing profit-making-schemes, including the cannibalism engendered by capitalist competition, is derived from the logical necessities generated by the logic of capitalism, acting upon the workforce/population so as to lower production costs to zero, while maximizing profits sky-high, it is, nonetheless, this very necessity, which simultaneously drives capitalism towards perpetual crises, breakdowns, and antagonism.

Marx always theorized that the lowering of production costs would result in lower commodity-prices, as competition between various competing capitalists, within a particular sphere of production, would inevitably instigate the perpetual lowering of commodity-prices.  However, Marx seems to have missed an essential lever driving capitalist development, capitalist accumulation, and capitalist expansion; i.e., that the maximization of profit simultaneously coincides with the minimization of production costs, meaning that lower production costs do not necessarily translate into lower commodity-prices, due to the fact that the compelling logical necessity for the maximization of profit is an imperative preventing price-drop.

The incessant pressures applied to capitalist-enterprises by this logical necessity to perpetually lower production costs while maximizing profit, which presents itself in various manners like stockholders demanding higher dividends, is, in fact, short-circuiting Marx’s conclusion that prices tend to drop when production costs drop. Meaning that capitalist-enterprises are just as likely to keep commodity-prices the same, or even raise them, despite a technological advantage over their competitors, which technically could allow a specific capitalist-enterprise to lower commodity-prices, the reason being that the maximization of profit is the fundamental logic of the capitalist-system. To forgo the immediate, maximization of profit in order to attempt to chase a competitor from the field with lower commodity-prices is, in fact, detrimental to capitalist development, capitalist accumulation and capitalist expansion in the long-run.

Such a manoeuvre flies in the face of the logic of capitalism; i.e., to maximize profit by any means necessary at the lowest financial cost as soon as possible in the sense that such price-manoeuvres manufacture price-wars between like-minded capitalist-enterprises, which, in the end, is detrimental to all capitalist-enterprises, within a specific sphere of production. That is, price-wars, despite being initially beneficial to consumers, destroys commodity-markets and capitalist profits for all economic participants, including the specific production spheres where consumers amass income through wages in order to buy commodities. Consequently, Marx’s theorization that the lowering of production costs would result in lower commodity-prices, manufactures, over an extended period of time, price-wars that unravel fragile markets, spheres of production, employment opportunities and, ultimately, the logic of capitalism, itself.

Beneath Marx’s whole argument that lower production costs inevitably result in lower commodity-prices is the idea that capitalism and capitalist-enterprises function and operate based on competition; i.e., the coercive laws of competition, which is not necessarily the case, due to the fact that competition over time destroys profits, markets, spheres of production and, ultimately, capitalism. Notwithstanding, this is Marx’s whole logic in the sense that ever-increasing competition between capitalist-enterprises eventually leads to the downfall of capitalism, itself, via an ever-increasing proletarianization and immiseration of the global population:

All methods for raising the social productivity of…[capital] are put into effect at the cost of the individual worker. It follows therefore that in proportion as capital accumulates, the situation of the worker, …must grow worse. It makes an accumulation of misery a necessary condition, corresponding to the accumulation of wealth. …[where] the development of the forces of production [both]…produce bourgeois wealth…and…an ever-growing proletariat.14

It is in this regard that through the unmitigated coercive laws of competition, designed to encourage the maximization of production so as to reap greater levels of profit, capitalist-enterprises bring about their own downfall. This is Marx’s whole argument and thesis in Capital (Volume 1); i.e., that capitalist-enterprises and capitalism, in general, engender their own gravediggers through their attempts to improve production methods and maximize capitalist profit.

As a result, the logical necessity to maximize profit while minimizing production costs, a fundamental necessity generated by the logic of capitalism, is not necessarily conducive to pure competition in the manner which Marx believes it to be.  If the goal of all capitalist-enterprises is to maximize profit, which it is (and Marx would agree), then, there is a vested interest in capitalist-enterprises to keep commodity-prices high rather than low, regardless of technological innovation and ever-lower production costs, due to the fact that high commodity-prices keep markets afloat, keep spheres of production expanding, keep profits at their maximum and keep capital continuously accumulating ad infinitum. It is by continually manufacturing a set of socioeconomic conditions, which short-circuit competition between capitalists that capitalism survives, thrives and continually expands.

In contrast to Marx, the type of competition Marx describes in Capital (Volume One) arises between capitalist-enterprises, when capitalism is not functioning properly, when the logic of capitalism is not being fervently adhered to, when capitalist-enterprises are not fully maximizing profit, and simultaneously, fully minimizing production costs. The type of competition, Marx describes in Capital (Volume One) is manifested when capitalist-enterprises are engaged in price-wars, within their individual spheres of production, due to the fact that a set of mutually beneficial business ententes and/or relationships have completely malfunctioned and/or have ceased to work properly.

Contrary to Marx, the relationship between capitalist-enterprises is not one dictated by pure competition; i.e., the coercive laws of competition, but one dictated by the maximization of profit at the lowest financial cost as soon as possible. Economic cannibalism may be the primordial state of the capitalist mode of production, à la Marx; however, the primordial state of the capitalist mode of production is avoided through economic networking in the sense that the seemingly endless divisions [between capitalist-enterprises] are nevertheless unified on one crucial point — the logic of capitalism. What unifies these seemingly independent, antagonistic [capitalist] entities and networks is the overarching logic of capitalism.

The logic of capitalism loosely organizes these divisive [capitalist] entities and networks into a network of networks, where decision-making-authority is focused and localized on the basis that these divisive [capitalist] entities and networks best represent and embody the logic of capitalism. Consequently, seemingly divided and at war, these micro-dictatorial networks and [capitalist] entities nonetheless work in unison, akin to a school of predatory fish, [i.e. profit piranhas]. They work together in the sense that these [capitalist] entities are determined to satisfy the logical necessities of…capitalism by fulfilling their own mercenary ambitions for profit. In essence, these socioeconomic predators only coalesce as a unified force in their fundamental core directive: to maximize profit, by any means necessary, at the lowest financial cost, as soon as possible.15

Like a school of piranhas, capitalist-enterprises work together, and not necessarily together, so as to maximize profit, both for themselves, individually, and for their ilk in general. Like a school of blood-thirsty piranhas, capitalist-enterprises are individualistic and collectively-driven simultaneously. They are organized both simultaneously as a unitary force, like a school of predatory fish, and individualistically as a divisive force, always ready to pounce on those capitalist-enterprises that lag behind.  To ensure their survival and to ensure their development, capitalist-enterprises build relations; i.e., economic networks among themselves, founded on the logical imperatives of capitalism, so as to stave-off the brute force of the unadulterated, coercive laws of competition, which surely will result in their own destruction if they go it alone. And secondly, to ensure their survival and to ensure their development, capitalist-enterprises congregate in networks/groups to influence governments in their favor, to influence economic policy in their favor, to influence each other to hold a certain political line, which is mutually beneficial for their insatiable profiteering individually and their sphere of production collectively.

This economic fact is the reason capitalist-enterprises have invaded the courts, the State, and have built for themselves the State/Finance nexus, etc. Likewise, this economic fact is the reason why capitalist-enterprises amalgamate among themselves into larger capitalist-entities and continually attempt to refashion bourgeois-state-capitalism, in general, into a system well-disposed to the maximization of profit, specifically corporate-enterprises and profit-making. All this is driven by the logical necessity, engendered by the logic of capitalism, to maximize profit to the limit, and beyond, while minimizing production costs to the limit, and beyond.

Out of this economic imperative to maximize profit while minimizing production costs, capitalist-enterprises increasingly abandon the central pivot of all modern labor theories of value; i.e., quantifiable labor-time, in favor of conceptual-perception, whereupon value, price and wage are no longer determined by an average of socially necessary labor-time and by scientific quantification, but are determined by conceptual-perception, that is, “whatever an entity can get away with in the marketplace and in the production-process is considered valid and legitimate”. In this manner, capitalist-enterprises have detached value, price, and wage from their former scientific basis and established value, price, and wage upon the post-modern vagaries of conceptual-perception, where power and influence become the great arbiters of value, price and wage. The stronger an enterprise’s network over the means of production and a specific sphere of production, the greater is its ability to set arbitrary values, prices, and wages, according to its own selfish desires and conceptual-perception.

This newly-forged, post-modern lever over value, price and wage, created with the abandonment of the economic lynch pin of quantifiable labor-time, permits capitalist-enterprises and, broadly speaking, enterprising-networks, in general, to artificially fabricate arbitrary values, prices, and wages, for their own commodities, for their own services, and for their own self-perceived remunerations, through power and influence rather than scientific quantification. As a result, this post-modern lever significantly facilitates the adherence to the logic of capitalism, including the economic imperative to manufacture ever-greater drops in production costs, while fabricating ever-greater escalations in profit via arbitrary price increases. Only by coalescing into enterprising-networks, which are more or less socioeconomic-formations akin to a school of piranhas, unified yet not truly unified, can the coercive laws of competition be tamed and a post-modern theory of value be realized, where capitalist-enterprises have the option of both maximizing profit via arbitrary price increases while simultaneously minimizing production costs.

It is this specific socioeconomic phenomena; i.e., the maximization of profit via arbitrary price increases, while continuously reducing production costs, both within a specific enterprise and across a sphere of production, which is the root cause of ever-increasing, financial inequality and ever-increasing debt slavery across the workforce/population. That is, the increasing financial inequality and debt-slavery we see burgeoning across post-industrial, post-modern, bourgeois-state-capitalism is the result of this two-pronged assault by capitalist-enterprises, both to reduce production costs; i.e., to do more with less, and to augment profits; i.e., to make people pay more for less. This two-pronged capitalist assault is manufacturing an ever-increasing financial divide between rich and poor, including an ever-increasing debt-load placed upon the workforce/population.  As Proudhon states, “profit is impossible unless fraud [and/or theft] is used”16 and “it is clear that no man can enrich himself without impoverishing another”;17 yet, this is the basic kernel of capitalism, and evermore so, as capitalism expands and develops.

As a result, increasingly new economic techniques and profit-schemes must be conceived and implemented by capitalists to further maximize profits and further minimize production costs. The workforce/population must be regimented both within the production-process and across their everyday lives to do more with less, while simultaneously paying more for less. Therefore, the workforce/population must be regimented, both conceptually and materially, to accept higher prices for their commodities in the circulation/consumption sphere, stagnate wages for their labor-power in the production sphere, while receiving and working with less resources and services in the distribution sphere, all in the name of maximum capitalist profit.

In an effort to normalize this socioeconomic mechanism of higher prices and profits in combination with lower production costs, capitalism has engendered and stimulated such things as the tiny house movement, payday loan schemes, automobile leasing, etc., all of which are by-products of capitalist-enterprises, attempting to maximize profit, while minimizing production costs. All these profit-making schemes, derived from the imperative to lower production costs while maximizing profit, are founded on capitalist thievery and the defrauding of the workforce/population, squeezing it increasingly out of its income, while giving it less in return.

In a similar fashion to Proudhon, according to Marx, profit/surplus value is the product of capitalist thievery. For Marx, profit/surplus value is derived from the defrauding or thievery by capitalists, of unpaid, surplus labor-time from the worker in the production process when the worker is forced to work beyond the necessary time-frame for his or her own sustenance and maintenance. As Marx states:

The only thing which can make…a capitalist is not exchange, but rather a process through which  he obtains objectified labor-time, i.e., value, without exchange…[whereupon capital] obtains a value for which it has given no equivalent. Surplus value in general is value in excess of the  equivalent.18

It is by not giving the worker his due that capitalists are able to pocket surplus value and, in essence, generate profit. The worker, through the forced labor of wage-work, is defrauded of his or her labor-power, free of charge, because he or she works longer, within the production process, than he or she receives in return. According to Marx, wages are paid on the basis of what it costs to produce the worker as a worker, rather than the actual labor-time the worker expends within the capitalist production process. As a result, the capitalists defraud the worker of surplus labor in exchange for nothing in return. Hence, like Proudhon, Marx sees profit as theft.

Granted, according to Marx, “profit is made by selling a commodity at its value”,19 that is, socially necessary labor-time in the circulation/consumption sphere; however, the circulation/consumption sphere only hides the inherent capitalist exploitation taking place within the production sphere via the seeming egalitarianism of market exchanges, transpiring across the marketplace. In actuality, workers are constantly being short-changed on the value of their labor-power, due to the fact that the wages they receive for their labor-power expenditures is based on the socially necessary labor-time for their own reproduction as workers, and not on the actual time, workers spend in the capitalist production-process.

For Marx, this is the root of surplus value/profit in the sense that labor-power is “a commodity, whose use-value possesses the peculiar property of being a source of value, [surplus value]”,20 and by extending necessary labor-time into surplus labor-time, capitalists manufacture surplus value, and the more surplus value they manufacture, the less is necessary labor-time. As Marx states, when the capitalist purchases labor-power and utilizes this labor-power, within the production process, “it creates value, a greater value than it costs. That is why [the capitalist] bought it [in the first place]”.21 This is Marx’s theory of exploitation, or specifically, his theory of surplus value, both of which are founded on a form of capitalist theft in the sense that the worker is never compensated for his or her extra labor-time expenditures within the capitalist production process. He or she is always short-changed by the capitalists, pertaining to his or her labor-power expenditures, within the capitalist mode of production. He or she is never compensated for the surplus labor-time expended within production.

Notwithstanding, there are limits to this form of capitalist exploitation. There are limits to Marx’s modern labor theory of surplus value and exploitation, which is most likely the reason why post-industrial, post-modern, capitalism has jettisoned the modern labor-theory of value and surplus value. The reason is the modern labor theory of value and surplus value is grounded on specific time-measurements of quantifiable labor-power, and generally speaking, socially necessary labor-time, compounded by the intensity of the production process. Essentially, by being fundamentally based on quantifiable labor-time, the amount of surplus value which can be extracted by the capitalist from the worker is limited to the 24 hour workday, meaning there is only so much surplus labor, in relation to necessary labor, which the capitalists can extract, both intensively and absolutely.

For instance, the intensity of production, which is the manner by which the capitalist reduces necessary labor, via technological innovation and/or a more refined division of labor, etc., raises the level of surplus value; i.e., surplus labor, by reducing the level of necessary labor; that is, the labor-time needed to reproduce the worker as a worker, because added machinery can produce more; i.e., satisfy the basic maintenance requirements of the worker sooner, but again, this is limited to the 24 hour workday and the basic maintenance requirements needed to reproduce the worker as worker.

As Marx states, by increasing the intensity of production, “the prolongation of surplus labor…correspond[s] to a shortening of necessary labor”,22 but again, the level of basic maintenance requirements and the 24 hour workday is the limit which this prolongation of surplus labor can reach. Theoretically, the minimum level necessary labor can be reduced to is zero, which in contrast, means that the maximum limit that surplus labor can be raised is 24 hours, meaning that necessary labor-time is nil in relation to the surplus labor-time of 24 hours. In reality, this cannot be achieved even with a fully automated, capitalist mode of production, because some form of necessary labor-time is always required to reproduce the worker so that he or she can live.

As a result, the basic maintenance requirements of the worker, plus the limit of 24 hour workday, place serious limits on capitalist exploitation, including the Marxist labor theory of value and surplus value, due to the fact that there is only so much surplus value capitalists can extract from the worker during the 24 hour workday, and only so much time-reduction a capitalist can reduce necessary labor-time, that is, the labor-time necessary to reproduce the worker as a worker, without killing him or her. As Marx states:

We began with the assumption that labor-power is bought and sold at its value. Its value, like that of all other commodities, is determined by the labor-time necessary to produce it….Although the working day is not a fixed but a fluid quantity, it can on the other hand, vary only within certain limits. The minimum limit [of necessary labor is],…equal to zero…[meaning this is] the minimum limit…the worker must necessarily work for his own maintenance. On the other hand, the working day does have a maximum limit. It cannot be prolonged beyond a certain point. This maximum limit is …the 24 hours of the natural day, [it is the theoretical limit] a man can expend…his vital forces [within production, which cannot exceed 24 hours].23

Marx refers to these two limits, created with the adoption of the labor theory of value and surplus value by capitalists as absolute surplus value; i.e., the limit of the 24 hour workday, and relative surplus value; i.e., the limit of necessary labor and surplus labor in relation to the intensity of production. These limits are the two fundamental manners by which capitalists maximize the production of surplus value and, in general, profit via the Marxist law of value.

However, at a certain point, capitalists want more surplus value; i.e., profit, than the modern labor theory of value is able to permit and generate. The reason being the fact that the “capitalist….soul is the soul of capital. [And] capital has one sole driving force, the drive to valorize itself, to create surplus value…[as] capital is dead labor which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks”.23  This mercenary drive pushes capital and capitalists beyond the parameters of the Marxist law of value into post-industrialism and post-modernity whereupon capital and capitalists abandon quantifiable labor-time as the basis of value, price, and wage and adopted conceptual-perception as the basis of value, price, and wage, namely, the vagaries of unquantifiable, creative-power. This rabid thirst for profit by capitalists across post-industrial, post-modern capitalism, moves capitalists beyond modernity and the modern Marxist law of value into the more profitable, post-industrial, post-modern, theories of value and surplus value, namely, theories of conceptual-commodity-value-management.

Such post-industrial, post-modern theories of value and surplus value open the possibilities of profit-making onto a new terrain, where on top of making, according to Marx, “the means of production absorb the greatest possible amount of surplus labor”,23 the point is also to maximize profit via the artificial fabrication of arbitrary value, price, and wage. This logical combination between the simultaneous imperative to maximize profit and the simultaneous imperative to minimize production costs is the signature lever of post-industrial, post-modern, bourgeois-state-capitalism. It is the logical imperative to have the workforce/population pay more for less in the circulation/consumption sphere, coupled with the logical imperative to have the workforce/population do more with less in the production sphere, while squeezing the workforce/population increasingly into misery and debt.

Therefore, in the epoch of post-industrial, post-modern capitalism, no longer are capitalists solely concerned with maximizing surplus value and profit within the production sphere. The goal is to maximize profit across the sum of society, across all spheres, where every moment of the worker’s life is moment of production, some type or form of unpaid production. As a result, this totalitarian capitalist objective has meant the abandonment of the modern labor theory of value; i.e., the modern Marxist law of value, and the strict confines of quantifiable labor-time in favor of post-industrial, post-modern theories of value, namely, theories of conceptual-commodity-value-management, where value, price, and wage are things socially constructed in the shadowy realm of conceptual-perception.

Or, as Hegel states, “the realm of shadows, [where] simple essentialities [are] freed from all sensuous concreteness”.24 In this realm of whim and fancy, value, price, and wage become sums held together and in place via power-structures and enterprising-networks, whose sole claim to truth, legitimacy and validity is that they control the means of mental and physical production within a specific sphere of production. Consequently, value, price, and wage within post-industrial, post-modern capitalism is devoid of foundation and/or quantification; and coupled with the incessant capitalist drive to lower production costs to an absolute minimum, this mechanism proves to have deadly effects on the well-being of the workforce/population.

Furthermore, the detachment of value, price, and wage from the limits of socially necessary labor-time and quantifiable labor-power expenditures has unhinged material labor as the foundation-stone of capitalism and has brought forth conceptual-perception as the foundation-stone of capitalism in the sense that conceptual-perception becomes the manner by which value, price and wage are established, meaning that value, price, and wage become items artificially and arbitrary constructed and fixed in people’s minds, regardless of labor-time expenditures, instead of something fixed by scientific quantification. More or less, value, price and wage become sums, which are established through ideologies, belief-systems, and false-consciousness, all of which stem from power and influence, rather than quantifiable, labor-power expenditure, namely, whatever a capitalist-entity can get away with is considered valid and legitimate.

In a roundabout, convoluted way, anticipating this move away from modern labor-time towards conceptual-perception, Marx states in the Grundrisse, pertaining to the advent of post-industrial, post-modern capitalism, that “as soon as….labor-time ceases… to be [the] measure… for the development of general wealth, …the general powers of the human head…[become] the measuring rod for…value”.25 That is, knowledge and science become the prime factors of production in the sense that “the general state of science and the progress of technology [and] the application of this science to production [become]…the great foundation-stone of production and of wealth”.26

This in turn increasingly undermines the old capitalist mode of production founded on material labor in the sense that material labor is increasingly eliminated from the production-process. Whereupon, “real wealth comes to depend less on labor-time and the amount of labor employed than on the power of the agencies set in motion”,27 that is, on science, machinery, and the networks influencing production, namely, “the general productive forces of the social brain…absorbed into capital, as opposed to labor”.28

In this regard, capitalism increasingly slips out of the capital/labor relation and posits science, machinery, and networks, as the new source of profit and the new source for manufacturing profit; i.e., the new capitalist mode of production. This new capitalist mode of production founded on knowledge, science and networks arbitrarily and artificially fabricate values, prices, and wages for things, people and knowledge, due to the fact that quantifiable labor-time is no longer a suitable base for these purposes. Indeed, as “capital absorbs labor into itself—as though its body were by love possessed…social labor [i.e., knowledge, science and networks become] the ultimate development of the value-relation and of production resting on value,…the determinant factor in the production of wealth”.29

Therefore, with the advent of post-industrial, post-modern capitalism, “labor no longer appears…included within the production process. [It] steps to the side [in favor of the] understanding of nature and…mastery over it”,30 which is expressed through machinery, science and networks, both material and conceptual, which comprise this new capitalist mode of production. As a consequence, labor-time, being increasingly inconsequential in the determinations of value, price and wage gives way to conceptual-perception and theories of conceptual-commodity-value-management, which become the primary manners by which value, price and wage are determined.

Moreover, with the advent of post-industrial, post-modern capitalism, the workforce/population increasingly appears as superfluous, but, in fact, is increasingly engaged in social labor or universal labor, that is, unquantifiable modes of production, consumption and distribution across the sum of society, which are, in essence, immeasurable but time consuming, nonetheless. In fact, these unpaid modes reproduce capitalism, realize profit and ameliorate the capitalist-system, in general, and can only be accomplished by the workforce/population. So, in the age of post-industrial, post-modern capitalist, production is total, while specifically direct production; i.e., traditional modern factory production, is being colonized by machinery, science and networks, which is usurping the involvement therein of workforce/population.

Jettisoned from the direct production-processes of capitalism, the workforce/population is pressed to realize profit evermore in other capitalist spheres wherefore, as Marx states “the greater the scale on which fixed capital develops…the more does the…production process…becomes an externally compelling condition for the [capitalist] mode of production”.27 That is, the more production becomes a compelling force, via machinery, science and fixed capital, etc., the more does the workforce/population live by the dictates of capitalism.

As a result, the workforce/population is increasingly immersed in social production, both inside and outside the capitalist production sphere, producing and reproducing capitalism, both quantifiable and unquantifiable, conceptual and material as social labor; i.e., as an unpaid, universal, capitalist form of labor-power expenditure. As Marx states, “as capital… presses to reduce labor-time to a minimum…[it] diminishes labor-time in the necessary form…[but it also] increases it in the superfluous form; [thus, it] posits the superfluous in growing measure [as it minimizes]…the necessary”.31 Consequently, as capitalism increasingly develops and seeks to maximize profit while minimizing production costs, it simultaneously makes vast segments of the workforce/population redundant, and as a consolation, these redundant segments of the workforce/population are pressed into the social labor circuits of capitalism; i.e., all the unquantifiable duties, which reproduce capitalism, both mentally and physically, free of charge.

Notwithstanding, this balancing act between maximum profit and minimum production costs by capitalism, has a tendency to manifest socioeconomic crises in the sense that lowering production costs too low, means the workforce/population will not be able to afford commodities, resulting in over-production and under-consumption due to a swell of unemployment and market stagnation, etc. Simultaneously, raising prices too high means the workforce/population will again not be able to afford commodities, resulting in over-production and under-consumption. This is how, according to Marx, “beyond a certain point, the development of the powers of production become a barrier for capital [and] the capital relation a barrier for the development of the productive powers of labor”.32

Of course, the credit-system always steps in to smooth the oscillation between maximum profit-making and minimum production costs, which results in a burgeoning debt-load onto the workforce/population; nevertheless, as Marx states, “the bourgeois mode of production contains within itself a barrier to the free development of the productive forces, a barrier which comes to the surface in crises and, in particular, in over-production—the basic phenomenon in crises”.33 And this barrier is the limit of consumption, capable of being sustained by the workforce/population, which can only support a restricted level of commodities, after which there is a surplus of commodities that remain un-purchased and stockpiled, manifesting, over an extended period of time, increasing socioeconomic crises.

These sorts of crises are due to the fact that the surplus value embodied in these surplus of commodities remain unrealized across the circulation/consumption sphere. Therefore, these unprofitable commodities are placing an undue burden on the production sphere, which manifests incessant socioeconomic crises. Circulation is interrupted because the workforce/population has less income to purchase goods. The workforce/population has less income because the production sphere, despite being extremely productive, requires less workers, due to the fact that automation and science have usurped most workers across the production sphere, hence, crises and cataclysms.

And as machinery, science and enterprising-networks  develop and expand into full automation and artificial intelligence, vast segments of the workforce/population are thrown increasingly into the industrial reserve army, because capitalism requires less and less labor-power expenditures within the production-process, which is increasingly populated by machinery. In consequence, socioeconomic crises develop, expand and intensify, as financial inequality, debt-loads and unemployment increase for the vast majority the workforce/population in relation to a select few, who manage the capitalist-system and pocket massive sums of the general global wealth. In sum, it is as Marx surmised that:

The growing incompatibility between …the productive development of society and its existing relations…in bitter contradictions [manifest] crises [and] spasms  [And, in an ironic twist], the highest development of productive power [i.e., full-automation and artificial intelligence] together with the greatest expansion of existing wealth, [into fewer and fewer hands] …coincide[s] with…huge explosions, cataclysms, momentous suspensions of labor [and the] annihilation of… great portions of capital [as] the latter is reduced to the point where it [cannot] go on,… without committing [global] suicide.34

Only then, it seems, will the workforce/population realize that capitalism is a totalitarian fanaticism, that is, a fascist fervor for profit at any cost, devoid of all sound judgments, other than sucking all life, both mental and physical, from the sum of human existence. The only voice totalitarian capitalism understands, and will ever understand, is the voice of revolution, millions marching, arm in arm, over its cold metallic corpse, smashed to pieces underneath the boot of structural-anarchism.

  1. Friedrich Engels, Anti-Duhring, (Peking: Foreign Language Press, 1976) 306.
  2. Ibid, p. 306.
  3. Ibid, p. 306-307.
  4. Ibid, p. 310.
  5. Ibid, p. 307.
  6. Karl Marx, Capital (Volume Three), Trans. David Fernbach (London: Penguin Books, 1991) 1031.
  7. Pierre Joseph Proudhon, What Is Property?, (Lexington, Kentucky: Loki Publishing, 2017) 81.
  8. Ibid, p. 81.
  9. Ibid, p. 76.
  10. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire, (Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000) 356-357.
  11. Ibid, p. 273.
  12. Ibid, p. 402.
  13. Michel Luc Bellemare, The Structural-Anarchism Manifesto: (The Logic of Structural-Anarchism Versus The Logic of Capitalism), (Montréal: Blacksatin Publications Inc., 2016) 6.b.
  14. Karl Marx, Capital (Volume One), Trans. Ben Fowkes (London Eng.: Penguin, 1990) 799.
  15. Michel Luc Bellemare, The Structural-Anarchism Manifesto: (The Logic of Structural-Anarchism Verss The Logic of Capitalism), (Montréal: Blacksatin Publications Inc., 2016) 42.a.
  16. Pierre Joseph Proudhon, What Is Property?, (Lexington, Kentucky: Loki Publishing, 2017) 110.
  17. Ibid, p. 127.
  18. Karl Marx, “Grundrisse”, The Marx-Engels Reader, ed. Robert C. Tucker (New York, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1978) 248-249.
  19. Karl Marx, Value, Price and Profit, (New York, New York: International Publishers, 1976) 44.
  20. Karl Marx, Capital (Volume One), Trans. Ben Fowkes (London, Eng.: Penguin, 1990) 270.
  21. Ibid, p.430.
  22. Ibid, p. 340-342.
  23. Ibid, p. 342.
  24. Georg Hegel, The Science of Logic, Trans. A.V.Miller (Amherst, New York: Humanity Books, 1991) 58.
  25. Karl Marx, Grundrisse, Trans. Martin Nicolaus. (New York, New York: Penguin, 1973) 705-706.
  26. Ibid, p. 705.
  27. Karl Marx, “Grundrisse”, The Marx-Engels Reader, ed. Robert C. Tucker (New York, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1978) 284.
  28. Karl Marx, Grundrisse, Trans. Martin Nicolaus. (New York, New York: Penguin, 1973) 704.
  29. Ibid, p. 694.
  30. Ibid, p. 704.
  31. Karl Marx, Grundrisse, Trans. Martin Nicolaus. (New York, New York: Penguin, 1973) 703.
  32. Karl Marx, “Grundrisse”, The Marx-Engels Reader, ed. Robert C. Tucker (New York, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1978) 284. 291.
  33. Karl Marx, “Crisis Theory,” The Marx-Engels Reader, ed. Robert C. Tucker (New York, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1978) 459.
  34. Karl Marx, “Grundrisse”, The Marx-Engels Reader, ed. Robert C. Tucker (New York, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1978) 291-292.

An Open Letter to the White Working Class

I’m writing this letter as the proud son of the working class. My father, who never attended college and was our family’s breadwinner, worked as a Greyhound Bus ticket seller, part-time mail carrier and grocery store stock boy. When he died of a sudden heart attack at age 47, he was working the night shift as a hospital orderly. I was 12 years old and my younger brother was seven.

Because my dad was a World War Two vet, we had a very modest house purchased under the G.I. Bill’s Home Loan Guaranty Program. Under provisions of the Social Security Act’s Aid to Widows with Children, my mother received some scant relief, but never beyond the maximum legal amount of $200 per month. As recipients, single moms were not to work outside the home.  It wasn’t easy but I shudder to imagine our lives without these Federal government programs. It also taught me that a government responsive to its citizens can be a positive, make-or-break difference.

After growing up a poor kid in Fargo, North Dakota, I managed to achieve some success through hard work, sacrifice and determination, but I certainly displayed no more grit than you’ve expended.  Earlier this year, my wife and I retired to a comfortable lifestyle, with all that implies.

Changing Times, Change Outcomes

I mention this background only because I think it conveys an important lesson: Had my “back in the day” working class existence occurred thirty-five years ago instead of sixty years ago, all my determined self-improvement wouldn’t have produced the same positive outcome. Why? Because times changed. A long economic decline occurred and you’ve been working harder for decreasing wages and benefits. Just how bad is it? When you total up their debt and total up their assets, 40% of Americans (4 in 10) have zero dollars. Zilch. They’ve been cheated out of opportunities that once were available to me and other members of the white working class. That America no longer exists. Now, is it possible to determine with precision’s just who’s to blame for this state of affairs? You betcha.

One more thing: had I been the child of a black veteran, my situation would’ve been truly grim. I’m embarrassed to admit that for most my adult life I was ignorant of the fact that racial exclusion provisions of the Social Security Act meant that throughout the South and elsewhere, black mothers were virtually excluded from these benefits. Widows who’d been “working” in the cotton fields or as house maids were legally ineligible. States were allowed to refuse mothers based only on race and routinely did so.

Likewise, African-American vets were denied many of the G.I. Bill’s benefits. They were prevented from gaining access to mortgages, bank loans, and educational opportunities. Formal and informal segregation excluded blacks from the suburbs where most new housing was being built. That’s only the tip of the iceberg that fostered a wealth gap between whites and blacks which continues to this day.

I should add that I’m a recovering Democrat, a longstanding member of Democrats Anonymous. But I haven’t been immune to (very) temporary seductions by smooth-talking presidential candidates, the last being Obama in 2008. In 2016, however, I didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton in either the primary or general election.

How does race play into our political situation?

If your high school education was similar to mine, you’ll be as surprised as I was to learn that there was no “white race” in our country until the idea was invented by white plantation owners in Virginia around 1676. Before their arrival here, the Europeans had never thought of themselves as white.

Ninety percent of the colonial population in Virginia consisted of Africans, some of them enslaved and others indentured servants, and poor European tenants and laborers. Not only did they share deep grievances against the ruling plantation owners; for three generations, blacks and whites had inter-married, worked, celebrated and mourned together. It may be hard to imagine today, but questioning any of this simply wouldn’t have entered their minds. Notions of mutual aid and common cause was second nature. So what happened?

A small army of poor (black) Africans and poor (white) English frontiersmen realized they were getting their asses whupped by the landed aristocracy. This ragtag militia, led by the Englishman-turned-rebel, Nathanial Bacon, attacked the royal English government and burned Jamestown to the ground. Ultimately, the overmatched uprising failed. Bacon died of illness, but 23 of his followers were hanged as traitors. This is known as Bacon’s Rebellion.

Recognizing that another insurrection was possible and might spread, the now-terrified ruling circle of plantation owners came up with a solution. Their great trick was to drive a wedge between white and black workers. On the one hand, draconian laws were passed that punished whites for associating with blacks. On the other hand, financial rewards were bestowed on whites who captured runaway slaves. Furthermore, perks like owning a tiny plot of land and a few minor legal rights were granted to whites, and their status versus blacks was elevated. Over time, an artificial bond was created between elites and the white working class. This was the genesis and evil genius of creating “white identity” where none had existed. Gradually, poor whites came to believe they were better human beings by virtue of their skin color. This strategy has been working for 400 years even though there’s nothing “natural,” nothing biological about it.

What about the white working class today and Donald Trump?

It’s well known that the white working class makes up one-third of the American adult population and they supported Donald Trump by a margin of two to one.  Their votes in the key electoral states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin tipped the election to Trump. Hillary Clinton had dissed two-thirds of Americans without college degrees, including those in these states.

Hillary Clinton had written off voters like yourselves. Why? Because she had nothing of substance to offer you. Wall Street’s Mistress promised “ladders of opportunity,” but you knew from painful experience that those ladders had been kicked away long ago by leaders of both the Democratic and Republican parties. Members of the posh, immensely privileged, white upper class were reaping all the benefits of policies enacted by the Republicrats.

I may be mistaken but based on my own reading, some Trump voters also found merit in Bernie Sanders’ program. But with Sanders off the ballot, they reasoned – “Hey, what do I have to lose?”  I’m also given to understand that many Trump voters also didn’t believe he would be a great or even good president, but voted for him anyway to poke a finger in the Establishment’s eye. An Ohio voter clarified that it was the middle finger. If so, good for you!

I trust you to correct me, but my take is that Trump offered hope with his “I’m not a politician” maverick outsider status. Policies of both major parties diminished your livelihoods, leaving you unable to afford child care, housing, and education. Many Trump supporters are one medical emergency away from economic disaster. Whatever your household income, the future seemed precarious, headed in an inevitable downward spiral, and prospects of a better future for your kids slipping away. For decades, no one was listening, but Trump seemed different in his pledge to get matters “under control.”

But what has Trump actually done since taking office? Here are just three examples among many: During the campaign he demonized Hillary Clinton for being in bed with Goldman Sachs (she was), the financial firm that “robs our working class” (it does). Yet we’ve recently learned that Trump’s long awaited tax cut plan was written by former Goldman investment bankers now on his team. The tax plan is an obscene giveaway of trillions of dollars that will, in the words of economist Jack Rasmus, “redistribute income massively upward from the middle and working classes to the rich.”

Meanwhile, Trump wants a spending cut of $1 trillion in Medicaid over the next decade and continues to shred what’s left of the social safety net after Bill Clinton’s devastating cuts in 1996.  By any measure, Trump’s economic agenda is “largely Goldman’s agenda.” In fact, I agree with those who argue that Goldman Sachs and the military-industrial complex now administer the presidency. I don’t believe this is what you were voting for.

Further, in explaining his startling decision to reverse a solemn campaign pledge to get the U.S. out of Afghanistan, Trump said, “Decisions look different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office.” Indeed. Whatever one’s intentions, one quickly learns to obey the wishes of the deeply imbedded, unelected power structure in Washington, or face daunting consequences.

Finally, you might recall that Trump proclaimed he would be “the greatest jobs’ President that God ever created.” Well, we’re still waiting.  And so are the 1.5 million workers who lost jobs during Obama’s administration, another “jobs creator.” Many of them have fallen into poverty and opiate addition, and have suffered permanent psychic scarring. More and more jobs are being outsourced or converted to part-time, seasonal, and low-wage, while still others are being replaced by robotics.

Just yesterday, here in my hometown of Bethlehem, PA, 460 workers at the Wells Fargo call center were told to report to the cafeteria, where they were abruptly fired. Many left the meeting in tears. Nancy Jenkins, 53, was one of them and told the local newspaper, “We have a lot of single parents who worry they’ll have to take a minimum wage job and aren’t sure how they’ll make it.” Jennings herself recently had a kidney transplant and worries she’ll be unable to pay for anti-rejection meds. Jennings’s starting salary at Wells Fargo: $13.82 per hour. Wells Fargo’s profit just this quarter: $4.47 billion.

You may have seen Trump’s recent late night response to all of this when he tweeted, “Stock Market at an ALL-TIME high!”  How much stock do you own?

But after having reported this, I must add that Trump is not the central problem, but only the predictable outcome of a much deeper crisis, one created by several preceding administrations. I’m suggesting that, consciously or not, Trump (or, really, his media guru, Steve Bannon) sold the white working class a bill of goods, and he encouraged you to scapegoat immigrants and black people for your entirely justified grievances. After poring over this material, I can say that no evidence exists to support these charges and reams of data refute them.

If Trump’s vision succeeds, there will be only one noteworthy change: a different 1% will rule the country. We have no skin in this game. All of this reinforces the conclusion reached by numerous nonpartisan political science studies: ordinary citizens have no influence over the government in Washington. As things stand, voting is essentially meaningless.

So, what’s next?

I’m not the first person to say there is one tiny minority that presents a danger to you. It’s the wealthy, privileged, and overwhelmingly white oligarchy that rules over all of us. Other than worrying that you might catch on that immigrants, Muslims and people of color are not threatening your well-being, they have never given a rat’s ass about us, our children or our grandchildren. All they want from us is our labor, and that only if the price is low enough.

As the late George Carlin famously quipped, “No matter how hard you work, no matter how hard you try, you’re screwed because it’s all fixed. There is a club and you ain’t it.” Tim Wise, a close student of race matters, notes that by virtue of their experience, brown and black people have always known this. The white working class, owing to conditions more recently thrust upon them, has only begun to entertain this truth and the troubling questions and doubts surrounding it.

Given all of the above, I would respectfully ask you to consider the following: the pain and fears of the white working class are real, but the diagnosis is wrong, and, if not corrected, terribly dangerous. This letter was my attempt to offer a second opinion, one which goes beyond symptoms towards pinpointing the actual cause, those who own and benefit from our deeply dysfunctional economic system. I wrote these paragraphs not to cast blame or make judgments about Trump supporters, but to begin a much needed conversation about our country’s future.

There are people, including some I know, who depict Trump sympathizers as bigoted, ignorant, gullible rubes, almost congenitally incapable of empathy. In fact, a few individuals advised me not to bother with this letter because “Trump supporters are fact-resistant and won’t give you the time of day.”

I don’t buy this, and the sweeping claim that all 62 million Trump voters are incapable of thinking and acting in their own interest is not only bullshit, but smugly condescending.

I’ve never doubted that white working class folks, if privy to all the facts, constitute one pillar in constructing the basis for a social movement that — operating outside the hopeless two party system — can fundamentally change our country. For me, that feels like our last and best hope.

Why I Was Put on Administrative Leave Toward a Termination: Planned Parenthood, A Vaccine, Doublethink Alive and Well in the World of Non-profits

The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them… To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies—all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.

— Orwell, George (1949). Nineteen Eighty-Four. Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd, London, part 2, chapter 9, pp 220

Part One

I was taking a sex education class with 40 other social workers in Seattle, Washington, at the Planned Parenthood office, this past sunny October 16. It was innocuous, infantile, silly and with a room-full of young (except me, my colleague and the trainers) social workers and providers for youth – young folk, teens, into their twenties. Homeless, drug affected, with mental health issues, identity questions, you know, youth at risk! I was cooperative, not argumentative, and rather “chill” to use the parlance of many generations.

At the end of the day, less than two hours after the session, I was called by my boss in Portland and I was told not to return for Day Two of the training. In her words: “You are not to go back to work Wednesday until I find out ‘what was going on in Seattle.’” That phrase, “what was going on in Seattle,” is one key element of how a 32-year-old supervisor with a master’s in social work from the so-deemed liberal social work program at Portland State University sees the world. She never told me what it was that got me expelled from the second session of the two-day mandatory training.

This story is on-going, unfolding, a sort of discombobulating process even (especially) innocuous non-profits, run by social workers, engage in when they want to sack someone who has shown passion for the youth and the work, created radical (social justice leftist radicalness) work around’s dealing with bureaucracy after bureaucracy, and who is loved by his clients/youth. I have been told to stay away until further notice. I even missed out Friday on a yearly retreat with my cohorts from other Portland area sites whom I have never met before.

Moreover, even under the precarity of my position (this is a ‘we got the right to fire and frog-march ya’ right out of the premises on a whim or a prayer’ state, and this behemoth of a non-profit is not worker organized; i.e., unionized), I have to believe it’s okay my sticking my head out there on the proverbial chopping block – writing about it — since it’s now October 21 and I have three days before I have a one-on-one behind closed doors meeting with the HR Director. I’ve been on paid administrative leave since October 17 (my sister, the social worker’s birthday); forced to drop my appointments with youth in crisis and others I depend on professionally; been informed to wait for the head of HR to return from vacation (this from a non-profit with over 700 employees, and only one person can hear me out, so I’ve had to stew and stew and then second- and third-guess what is the actual “charge” against me by Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest to Include Washington, Idaho and Hawaii, Alaska).

What A Wonderful Day of Sex, STIs, and LGBTQI Training Turned into a Storm

We had all sorts of fun activities and ice breakers and plenty of Seattle food during the tax-funded training. It was a mix of what we might have to tell our youth in times of trouble; i.e., possible STIs contracted, possible pregnancies to be faced, possible physical abuse endured, possible queries into what to expect during first-time sex, possible questions about sexuality and sexual identity. It was taught at times in that silly sort of way, as if we were the youth.

I went with the flow, and while I was one of only three males as students, and while my grizzled beard and sport coat put me into that other protected class – anyone over fifty – I did blend in fine. Or at least I thought I had . . . .

I headed back to the hotel 19 blocks away, with my African-American colleague, female again in that protected age class. We decided to meet up later, for a drink. However, the supervisor in the program for the non-profit I work for in Portland called me up 90 minutes later and said I was on administrative leave and to not to return to work until the HR director could be contacted and then “my side of the story” would be aired. My supervisor was dry mouthed, didn’t give me a chance to ask “why” and was curt. End of debate (sic).

In the scheme of things, one 60-year-old socialist/Marxist getting sacked – this is what the unfolding reality of what’s occurring – is nothing. No tsunami, no reverberating story of my house burning down in the Columbia Gorge, or three nights weathering a hurricane hitting Puerto Rico, or surviving a Las Vegas mass shooting spree.

High turnover rates and no cause dismissals and pile-on workloads is the defining characteristic of social work/mental health healing. This is typical in my field – social services – where people in their mid-twenties are coming onto the job market with big hearts, a dedication to social work, and a big school debt load for their vaunted masters in social work, AKA MSW. Coming out of the flagship university of Portland, PSU, they might have $50K or more for debts incurred for tuition, books, living – i.e., rents that Robin Leech from Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous would have been citing as his millionaires’ monthly mortgages for regular lower middle class youth and adults. Make that a master’s degree holder getting $12.25 an hour working with some very challenging cases of people on the edge.

Fighting for the Young-Old, Tired, Hungry, Poor, Disenfranchised, Houseless, Young, Misbegotten isn’t Radical, it’s Normal

I am not laughing, but the insanity of what happened to me in a 12-hour period also shines the light on the corrupt Planned Parenthood, specifically the trainers and development directors at PP who see anyone who might be both against a Trump and an Obama (me) and a dyed in the wool Marxist (me) and doubter of Western medicine (me) and this boondoggle Gardasil (me) — [more on the vaccine now forced on young girls and boy at an early age to prevent HPV — Human Papillomavirus] — as a threat . . . . But a real threat to what, that’s the question?

First, the very nature of what I do in social services is suspect every day when I work with non-profits and some of those MSW supervisors who not only make life a living hell for their workers through impossible caseloads, impossible work hours, obscene paychecks, but also through very little emotional or institutional support. We are always on the chopping block, cogs in a social services scheme that ties state-federal-philanthropic funding to our jobs – this is a veritable shitstorm of begging for funding from various agencies like Planned Parenthood (who gets money from Bill and Melinda Gates, Starbucks, Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson, Unilever, Wells Fargo, Stanley Morgan, et al) and federal and state entities to smear on the Vaseline and adhere the Band-Aids to a very stressed-out/underfunded web of mental health and addiction issues killing this country.

We all should be on the streets during breaks, in between client visits, around town with sandwich board signs espousing an end to exploitative criminal capitalism; tooling around in our private vehicles plastered with all sorts of political and social justice billets glued on – “we are social workers and the mental health and homelessness and drug addiction and medical health issues are a crime, perpetuated by Capitalism, and in the case of Oregon, by Intel and Nike and the others who fight paying their fair share of Operating Their Billion Dollar Industries in Oregon.”

Instead, we work our caseloads with a passion and continuous trauma cortisol-laced operating procedure while in many cases the entire rotting non-profit affords us zero agency, zero trust, and in my case, my word (and the words of two colleagues who were at Planned Parenthood training, at my same table, perfect witnesses to my stellar behavior) against whatever word the Planned Parenthood trainers (three total with a fourth PP observer – we’ll get to her later).

You don’t have to get the Catholic Worker or World Socialist Web Site to see which profession is the number one stressed and most difficult in America – try CNN:

Median pay: $43,200
% who say their job is stressful: 72%

Social workers step in when everyone else steps aside to help people and families in vulnerable situations. They provide patients with education and counseling, advise care givers and make referrals for other services. And with social workers in short supply and programs underfunded, few must juggle the work of many, while reaping little reward.

Just ask Heather Griffith, a social worker who works with children in intensive foster care in Boston: “You’re getting paid $12 an hour and kids are screaming at you, telling you that you are just in it for the money and you’re just like, really?”

Portland is plagued with a huge class divide while homelessness, addiction recovery, physical/emotional trauma and mental hygiene are churning up a bloody storm of Biblical proportions, precipitating this glasshouse we are living in that shines the light on the fallout (victims) of Capitalism and neoliberalism. But, also, this quadruple storm and tsunami is illustrative of the inhumane nature of so-called liberals, white liberals, and in my field, mostly white female liberals, who have set up so many chinks in the armor of safety nets and true communitarian support and radical social work (there’s really no radical social work being done in the USA) that the people working with youth and adults in crisis are then put into crisis after crisis, daily traumas from management, threats of firing, and in my case, warning after warning for disagreeing with police who laugh at youth drug addiction or individuals with Department of Human Services branches who continue to propagate the virus that Donald Trump is good for homelessness because he is picking up the local economy.

I’ve been called on the carpet by my much younger supervisor with her shiny MSW and white privilege smirk actually because I was advocating for my foster youth, for not accepting misstatements and for denying the ageism-sexism-racism that comes from so many people’s mouths – those in some minute form of authority. I’ve been called on the carpet for voicing both a wise and no-backing-down support of my caseload – young kids and those up to age 21 who have been in foster care.

If you think I’ve strayed from the current thesis of my job now in the balance because of an outside non-profit, Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest (I do not work for PP), think otherwise since I have to get to the nuts and bolts of my current fight to stay employed not only with L———-W, but in the field of social services. Count the number of men social workers and DHS case managers in any given organization or county-city-state agency on your hand. Some meetings I go to and the trainings like this one held in Seattle by Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest reflect a less than 9 percent (or less) male attendance or worker ratio.

I have been with 60 case managers, and was only one of five males in the crowd.

This is also the terrible nature of the beast – out of balance demographics. Youth and adults want-need-should have male workers as well as female ones. But, the nature of this field as a female field over time has ratcheted up the idea that women are givers and men aren’t. Anyone with a socialist underpinning knows that the fields with nurses, teachers and social workers have largely been populated by women because of the patriarchy and outright misogyny of a white Christian-Jewish male dominated upper echelon in the fields of education, medicine, psychology/sociology. Low pay and no power, that’s the jig in social services, education, journalism, and now, almost in every field in America, counting 80 percent of us as members of  the precariat. The elite class and upper echelon of the fields I have worked in have largely been from Ivy League schools, and many are self-described Jews or Democrats. Count other professions I have been a worker in to include English studies, higher education, journalism, mainstream novel publishing, union organizing, environmental activism, urban planning, and now social work.  Many fields are populated largely by women, and our pay is obscene.

Back to Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest – Sasquatch Ate the Homework!

The Seattle Planned Parenthood office looks like it was designed and built for Patagonia executives: lots of old growth beams, exposed cedar wood, metal I beams and tons of windows from floor to ceiling. This is not a welcoming place, but I did what I was supposed to do as a social worker for youth in foster care: these incredible 16 to 21 year old’s who I help with mentoring, health, education, employment, cultural, physical and intellectual and spiritual pursuits. I manage funds and sources of support for them, too, as well as provide invigorating, thoughtful and fun conferences and outings and the like.

This Planned Parenthood training is a curriculum that is two days of exposing social workers and youth advocates on the basics of sex ed. It’s a cross between adults – us—getting a childish bunch of things pressed upon our brains and then some up-to-date’s on STD/STI (sexually transmitted infections) and contraception.

We do some really juvenile things as ice breakers, and, well, I am a team player and active kind of 60-year-old, and my belief is that if I am being paid to go to a training, getting a fancy hotel to stay in and per diems, then I throw in with an open and engaged mind. But I am no wall flower.

What will follow will be highly informed speculation as to why I am currently on paid leave from L———W and am faced with a Monday morning HR visit tantamount to a termination hearing:

And that’s the problem I am facing – I threw in and took the PP spiel and promise about safe space and respected opinions and in the case of my situation, anonymity, seriously. Again, I work for L———W, not for Planned Parenthood, and as of Tuesday October 17, my job was on the line because Planned Parenthood called my boss (a white thirty-something Portland State University MSW graduate) who put me on notice I am in deep shit.

I have to riff here with some common threads in my life as an activist and leftist-socialist: This is the epoch of the neoliberal and Political Corrupted left, and it’s a world of warped Political Correctness, Identity Politics, and a lot of bullshit ranting at cocktail parties, lots of railing against the Orange Monster, but in public, these people are bereft of voice, passion and spine. Few I see in the social services rail or rant or debate against the Trump-Pence-Neoliberal insanity of this world. How is this, when the reality TV Dystopian outgrowth of elitism and corrupted patriarchy power, this obvious creation of neoliberalism and anti-worker Democratic Party, Trump et al is front and center and no one tackles his presidency as an obscenity, in the lines of previous presidencies?

Our field of social services and in PP’s case, reproductive health services, is tied to the almighty government dollar entwined to the power brokers who fund these outfits and ask for all leftists’ mouths to be taped shut: Here, Planned Parenthood’s money trough: Adobe, American Cancer Society, American Express, AT&T, Avon, Bank of America, Bath & Body Works, Ben & Jerry’s, Clorox, Converse, Deutsche Bank, Dockers, Energizer, Expedia, ExxonMobil, Fannie Mae, Groupon, Intuit, Johnson & Johnson, La Senza, Levi Strauss, Liberty Mutual, Macy’s, March of Dimes, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, Nike, Oracle, PepsiCo, Pfizer, Progressive, Starbucks, Susan G. Komen, Tostitos, Unilever, United Way, Verizon, Wells Fargo.

Now, I believe this is a tale of Big Pharma and Big Non-Profit colluding together to write a false narrative about one vaccine that has gotten a lot of negative press and more negative testimony from young women and their parents on the vaccine’s debilitating and life altering (negative, full of chronic pain/fatigue, sterility!). But, that’s part two of this story – after I end up in a one-hour fact-finding meeting with my non-profit’s HR to “discover” exactly what went wrong in Seattle October 16. On all accounts, not a single untoward or odd or explosive or demeaning or contentious thing occurred in my physical participation in the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest training.

Also, this is a story of how the Political Correct non-profits do not follow the rules of safe space, anonymity in written comments and evaluations, fail to honor all people in one setting, and go on a witch hunt if even one thread of their nationally made reputation is untangled in the fabric of their overreach. Look, I am one worker, old, through the ringer in other jobs, other professions, who is now awaiting word of my future.

Twenty bucks an hour, some paid time off, health insurance, and an office and a large caseload. I have been left since October 16 to stew, to ruminate, to consult a labor attorney and to visit a psychologist as part of our company’s three free visits with a counselor tied to stress in life, stress at work.

We Are the Gift That Keeps on Giving — Social Services Worker!

I’ve been red-flagged in the minds of my youth, since I’ve never dropped appointments, and now I’ve been forced to. My teammates are left wondering what happened to me and what might happen to them. My office mates from other departments in this non-profit are wondering where I am since I’ve always been a stickler for showing up and not taking time off. I’ve been told no work, no emails, so I can’t even let my teammates know that I am okay, not terminal (maybe terminated) and let them know I am under forced administrative leave.

Here’s the rub about places where the workers aren’t organized, where there is no contract, where the bosses run roughshod over workers, though we outnumber them 100 to one: whatever the bosses do in their convoluted process and whatever they might think is due process, they are wrong.

Due process is not accusatory and is not a process of railroading — setting up an employee as presumed guilty before a fair airing of the complaint. This sort of management and supervisorial style is counter to these non-profits’ (mine especially, since we were trained recently on it) motto that we have to be social workers who use trauma informed care as our operating principle. They in turn have zero sense of trauma informed supervision.


Trauma informed care is grounded in and directed by a thorough understanding of the neurological, biological, psychological, and social effects of trauma and the prevalence of these experiences in persons who seek and receive services.

Trauma informed care is about creating a culture built on six core principles:

1. Trauma Understanding: through knowledge and understanding trauma and stress we can act compassionately and take well-informed steps towards wellness.

2. Safety & Security: increasing stability in our daily lives and having core physical and emotional safety needs met can minimize our stress reactions and allow us to focus our resources on wellness.

3. Cultural Humility & Responsiveness – when we are open to understanding cultural differences and respond to them sensitively, we make each other feel understood and wellness is enhanced.

4. Compassion & Dependability – when we experience compassionate and dependable relationships, we re-establish trusting connections with others that fosters mutual wellness.

5. Collaboration& Empowerment – when we are prepared for and given real opportunities to make choices for ourselves and our care, we feel empowered and can promote our own wellness.

6. Resilience & Recovery – when we focus on our strengths and clear steps we can take toward wellness, we are more likely to be resilient and recover.

Recovering reputations, no mater how micro-aggressive the impugning is, directly or secondary, is not an easy thing when management assumes guilt — in my case, something so terrible that Panned Parenthood would ban me — and puts an employee through this process of locking him or her out of the team, out of the unit, out of the safety and sanity of fellow workers who are the front-line of work and of supporting fellow workers in times of need.

Second, having the rules of discovery broken by a non-profit during a so-called investigation is not only unethical but unprincipled. I do not have any sense of the nature of the complaint leveled against me by Planned Parenthood, so when I go into the meeting with HR Monday, it’s cold, lacking context, lacking any ability for me to get my head wrapped around this entire event.

I’ve sent emails to the four trainers for PP, and I’ve sent emails on a very human level to the supervisors’ supervisors, and even one to the company’s Executive Director, who espouses an open door policy on our web site.

Nothing in return. No phone calls allying my fears. Nothing. The Planned Parenthood people who called for my ban from the second day training did not email back, my supervisor has told me zero about the nature of the complaint, and the ED of my non-profit didn’t reach out. This is a 55 year old Portland-based non-profit, and I am being treated as a non-entity. I can’t imagine an HR person holds sway over the ED’s compassion or ability to engage with an employee.

I have two colleagues who were at the Seattle training who have told me in written texts that nothing went awry and they are more than willing to attest to my composure and level-headedness at the training. There were others there, people from Seattle, who would be just as capable as witnesses to attest to my professionalism.

This is the issue, then, a non-profit following some secret plan to investigate me after putting me on forced administrative leave. This is quasi-judicial, and I have no union to back me, no negotiator, no representative or ombudsman. In some circles, this could be called a witch hunt, monkey trial or a rail-roading.

Assume positive intentions is another mantra in the non-profit world, and again, the positive intent of whatever might be the craw in the throat of the Seattle Planned Parenthood trainers should be on my company to hold to me.

Finally, I gave these people — supervisors, HR, PP, my colleagues the thought experiment: Now, what if I was one of the many Christian social workers, evangelical, even, coming to a training put on by Planned Parenthood and funded by taxpayer money (it is)? What if this person stood up and espoused her opinions about the greatness of the current leader of the USA, President Trump. What if she went further and said that while she is willing to sit through two days of training, she wants it to be known that she supports Mr. Trump’s anti-Planned Parenthood stance. And she continued by saying she supports Oregon and Pacific Northwest lawmakers fighting against abortions and federally funded services around birth control and contraception? What if this person continued by stating that while she will listen to the trainings and participate as best she could considering her Evangelical Christian views, that she also disagrees with the LGBTQI designations bandied about cavalier like by Planned Parenthood? And what if she was in favor of the Oregon baker who refused to make a cake for a same sex couple? What if she added that she was President Trump’s calling for the US Supreme Court to rule in favor of the Colorado baker who too refused to bake a same-sex marriage-wedding cake?

That thought experiment is key to where I stand —  I am the exact OPPOSITE of that hypothetical social worker above, in both my actions, my words, and my writing. Further, I am philosophically and politically and fundamentally for anyone’s right to get birth control, birth control services/education, and to access abortion. I believe bakers or dress makers or baristas have zero ground to stand on by refusing services to African-Americans, dwarfs, people with Down Syndrome and gays or LGBTQI, anyone, including frosting a cake. It’s discriminatory. Period.

I have seen a psychologist, and he’s recommended I do not keep all this in my head. “To find some release,”  Paul. Here it is, in writing. One lawyer I called pro-bono said to keep copious notes and be as lawyer-like as possible Monday. My friends and significant other and relatives all say this is an insanity, whatever I have been accused of to be banned from a mandatory training (for my job) at the Seattle Planned Parenthood.

However, Part Two will be started the hour after HR meets with me. What will happen I can’t crystal ball into the future, but my gut feels like a process of termination, one that looks above board compared to other firings this non-profit has engaged in.

I’m no Karen Silkwood here, or Erin Brockovich. So, on the scheme of things, I’m what Death of a Salesman’s about — small potatoes, nameless worker, one of the masses busting his head against the wall of capitalism, for profit or non-profit.

But mark my words — even if one person reads this, then one person more bears witness to this injustice after injustice. If I’m sacked, the clarity of how Planned Parenthood and Big Pharma are interlinked in a nefarious game, and deadly because of the product both are pushing, will be clearer.

What more can I do in an age of dead journalism, that is, the so-called traditional and mainstream? There’s not a bunch of editors in Portland for the three alternative rags and for the mainstream dying rag waiting to report on my case. You the reader will get my own personal journey and the larger colluding of Planned Parenthood with the forces of Big Pharma. In that process, my catharsis will be evident, and the storied history of Planned Parenthood will be developed.

This is a simple case of an unfair labor practice, a violation of my free speech rights, a violation of confidentiality, and now workplace harassment, wrongful suspension and possibly wrongful termination. In a right to fire/right to work state, no less, my words and my calls for justice crumble and float away like the very parchment of treaty right given to all the great first peoples of this land and of Canada after they were torched! What’s worse is that Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest is creating a specter of insanity, Orwellian, a flipped over reality where someone, me, not even associated with the organization, is being called to task by his employer. What is the definition of insanity? Someone else’s projection?

He [Trump] has stepped out of our celebrity reality-TV screened world to carry on the media’s task of what Orwell said was a necessary task for the rulers in a totalitarian society: ‘to dislocate the sense of reality.’ … We have now entered a new phase of propaganda where sowing mass confusion on every issue 24/7 is the method of choice.

But therein lies hope if we can grasp the meaning of Oscar Wilde’s paradoxical statement: ‘When both a speaker and an audience are confused, the speech is profound.’

Ed Curtin